Peak season for dust in the Taklamakan desert •

Peak season for dust in the Taklamakan desert

Today’s Image of the Day from NASA Earth Observatory features the Taklamakan desert in Xinjiang province in western China. The photo shows a cloud of dust moving over the Tarim Basin. 

According to NASA, the Taklamakan desert is one of the harshest, driest, and most barren places on Earth. In this region, dust is often picked up and carried by strong winds.

“In a recent analysis of two decades of observations from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometers (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra and Aqua satellites, scientists reported that airborne dust was most common and thickest over Xinjiang in the spring,” reports NASA.

“They also showed that the majority (92 percent) of dust affecting Xinjiang comes from natural sources, such as dried lakes and dunes. The rest comes from anthropogenic sources, such as farmland and cities.”

The Taklamakan desert is the world’s second largest shifting sand desert. About 85 percent of the desert is made up of shifting sand dunes.

In a separate study, experts used the Goddard Chemistry Aerosol Radiation and Transport (GOCART) model to demonstrate that dust initially tends to get trapped by the mountains surrounding the Tarim basin, forming a “dust reservoir.” Over time, however, this dust is eventually picked up and redistributed.

The natural-color image was captured on March 7, 2022 by the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) on the NOAA-20 satellite. 

Image Credit: NASA Earth Observatory 

By Chrissy Sexton, Staff Writer

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