Huge Sandstorm Turns Beijing Sky Orange
Storms have jumped sixfold in 50 years due to deforestation
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Mar 20, 2010 6:01 AM CDT
Chinese women walk on a pedestrian bridge during a sandstorm hit in Beijing, Saturday, March 20, 2010. China's capital woke up to orange-tinted skies Saturday as the strongest sandstorm so far this year...   (Andy Wong)
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(Newser) – China's capital woke up to orange-tinted skies today as the strongest sandstorm so far this year hit the country's north, delaying some flights at Beijing's airport and prompting a dust warning for Seoul. The sky glowed and a thin dusting of sand covered Beijing, causing workers to muffle their faces in vast Tiananmen Square. The city's weather bureau gave air quality a rare hazardous ranking.

Air quality is "very bad for health," China's national weather bureau warned. It said people should cover their mouths when outside and keep doors and windows closed. China's expanding deserts now cover one-third of the country because of overgrazing, deforestation, urban sprawl and drought. The shifting sands have led to a sharp increase in sandstorms—the grit from which can travel as far as the western United States.