China’s largest, hottest, and driest desert sits in the westernmost part of the country. Filling the Tarim Basin, the Taklimakan (also Taklamakan) Desert is cut off from the impacts of the Asian monsoon and Arctic storms that bring moisture to other parts of the region.
Shifting sand dunes cover about 85 percent of the desert floor, some of the dunes rising to a height of 200 meters (650 feet). Winds can easily loft the sand into the air, carrying it eastward over China.
Dust blew out of the Taklimakan Desert in early November 2012. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite captured this true-color image on November 2, 2012. Part of the Taklimakan Desert inside the Tarim Basin appears along the left edge of the image. Dust plumes—thick enough in places to completely hide the land surface below—blow away from the basin’s eastern margin.