Dust blows across the Taklamakan desert in northwest China • Earth.com

Dust blows across the Taklamakan desert in northwest China

Today’s Image of the Day from NASA Earth Observatory features  the Taklamakan desert in China’s Tarim Basin. According to NASA, the image was captured as a cold front passed through the region and blew dust toward the east. 

The Taklamakan Desert, located in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of northwest China, is one of the largest sandy deserts in the world. 

Spanning an area of about 337,000 square kilometers, the desert is characterized by its vast sea of shifting sand dunes, some of which can reach heights of up to 200 meters.

It has an extreme desert climate with very little rainfall, harsh winters, and hot summers. Annual precipitation is less than 10 mm in some parts, making it one of the driest places on Earth.

“November through March is particularly dry, and passing weather systems often stir up walls of dust that race across the basin,” said NASA.

The Taklamakan Desert is historically significant as it was a part of the ancient Silk Road. Caravans traversed its perilous edges, linking the East and West for trade and cultural exchange.

Despite its harsh conditions, the desert is home to a variety of wildlife, including the Bactrian camel, wild horses, and various bird species. Sparse vegetation can be found in some oasis areas.

The desert is subject to issues like desertification and the impact of climate change. Sandstorms from the Taklamakan can carry sand and dust far beyond its boundaries, affecting air quality and ecosystems.

The image was captured on November 11, 2023 by the MODIS (Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer) sensor on NASA’s Aqua satellite.

Image Credit: NASA Earth Observatory 

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