Sandstorm turns sky orange

March 20, 2010 | Posted by Chris

Today the city of Beijing weathered the biggest sandstorm of the year, in an episode that tinted the sky orange and made going outdoors both inconvenient and potentially hazardous, NPR reports. The storm approached overnight and this morning Beijing residents awoke to a layer of yellow sand outside and strong wind gusts that continued throughout the day. China's national weather bureau warned that the conditions were "very bad for the health" and encouraged people to stay indoors. Those that traveled outside struggled against the airborne sand with face masks, glasses and other protective gear -- and anyone that has experienced a sandstorm in Beijing can tell you that being outside is a matter of keeping one's mouth tightly closed, firmly squinting one's eyes, and getting to one's destination as quickly as possible. Sandstorms are common in the springtime, when wind gusts from deserts outside the capital travel towards the coast, but today's storm -- which was the most intense since 2006 -- has revived discussion about the affects of human activity. It is reported that one-third of China is now desert because of its rapid development and dry weather, despite concerted efforts in recent years to promote conservation. Says Beijing resident Shi Chunyan, "I think this kind of natural disaster is caused by human activity, but I don't know the exact reason, and I don't know exactly what we can do to prevent this."

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