May 5, 2008 - Dust storm in the Taklimakan Desert

Dust storm in the Taklimakan Desert

Dust storms covered much of the Taklimakan Desert in western China in on May 2, 2008, when the MODIS on the Terra satellite captured this image. If you move your mouse over the image, you see how much the storm had intensified as compared to an image of previous day from the MODIS on the Aqua satellite.

In the main image, the dust plumes appear as beige blurs hiding the tan-colored landscape below. Aside from an isolated plume in the west, the dust plumes merge into one large plume, blowing toward the east. Snowcapped mountain ridges fringe the desert in the northwest and southwest. Clouds also hover along the desert’s southern margin, perhaps associated with the same weather system that stirred the dust.

The Taklimakan Desert occupies the Tarim Basin between the Tien Shan Mountains in the north, and Kunlun Mountains in the south. The lowest point of this basin is about 150 meters (almost 500 feet) below sea level, and because the area has no drainage, large quantities of salt have collected in the basin. The mountains to the north block cold air from the Arctic, and the location’s distance from the ocean eliminates monsoon-related precipitation, so the area remains warm and dry. It is one of the largest shifting-sand deserts on Earth.

Image Facts
Date Acquired: 05/02/2008 and 05/01/2008
Resolutions: 1km ( B), 500m ( B), 250m ( B)
Bands Used: 1,4,3
Image Credit: Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS Land Rapid Response Team, NASA GSFC