A thick blanket of haze hung over the Korean Peninsula when the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on board NASA’s Aqua satellite acquired this true-color image on January 14, 2021. A broad light tan plume stretches over North Korea, with the air over South Korea remaining clear. In eastern North Korea the haze is so thick that it obscures the land from view.
Most of the haze is likely dust from China’s Gobi Desert. Dust Scores derived from the Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) which also flies on the Aqua satellite show heavy dust over the Gobi Desert on January 12. By the next day, dust was moving eastward and on January 14 dust was concentrated over the Korean Peninsula. The Gobi Desert is one of the world’s most abundant sources of dust. Dust storms are more common in March and April but can occur at any time of year.
While dust is a major component of the plume, it is not likely to be the sole aerosol component. Pollution from industry, coal-burning heat, and automobiles often fill the skies over parts of China and are carried on the wind at least as easily as dust.