Everyone knows it’s windy

So I’ll break the weeks-long silence on our blog by talking about the thing people are always talking about: the weather. At the moment we are emerging from the bone-dry Beijing winter into the gusty, dusty Beijing spring. Spring is a very windy time here, and for the past few days the cracks in our apartment windows have been moaning and howling intermittently.

In recent years, spring winds have carried heavy loads of sand into the city from Inner Mongolia. As recently as four years ago, Beijing’s spring sandstorms were reaching new heights of intensity (see some of the news coverage here and here), but since 2002 they seem to have abated. There are lots of theories why: is it “a new El Niño phenomenon,” as one report suggested? More winter precipitation than in the early 2000s? The man on the street (well, outside our apartment building, anyway) insists that it’s the result of the government’s “greening” efforts over the past few years. Lots of trees and other vegetation have been planted outside the city, and the neighbors and friends I’ve talked to say that’s holding the soil down. Well, whatever it is, it’s making spring a little more pleasant.

Of course, it’s still early for sandstorms, so we may yet see a few. And ordinary precipitation can carry a lot of dirt, too. The other morning, after a light rain the previous night, I was dismayed to see that my bike, which I had just ridden the day before, was caked in dirt from stem to stern. Absolutely filthy. Later that day, it snowed on BH and me while we were out on our bikes, and when we got home, we had to wipe a film of dirt off the lenses of our glasses and dust off our pants and bags. I’m starting to understand why Chinese friends will cancel an appointment just because it’s raining.

3 comments

  1. If the last big sandstorm was 2002, then I suspect it’s probably variation in the weather patterns, rather than the greening projects, that are primarily responsible for keeping the sandstorms at bay.

    Although I’m not really wishing for a sandstorm this year, a part of me is *kind of* hoping for one, because I’ve never seen one before. Sure, I grew up in New Mexico, where wind-blown sand could be a feature of most any season, but I’ve never seen a really big, sky-discoloring, sun-blocking sandstorm. Then again, experiencing something like that might be cool for a day or so, but after that you’d be sorry you wished for it.

  2. For some reason I couldn’t follow the first link (shanghai star?). But did see a few images that would be pretty wild (frightening?) to witness firsthand including:

    http://www.lakepowell.net/asiandust.htm
    http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Newsroom/NewImages/Images/seawifs_dust_20020318_tn.jpg

    Ah – wind. Boy could we use some here in Hanoi… for the last 4 weeks or so we have been experiencing constant grey skys, an icky constant drizzle, and air that is still but increasingly warm and humid. This climate, beyond being uncomfortable and uninspiring, has meant that my clothes, bed sheets, pillows, and cloth bound books are all molding – the mean time between wipe downs to fight the mold is about 3 days. ICK! And without a dryer, I fear the things I wash will never ever dry (I was contemplating this as I looked at my pillow this morning – what to do)…

  3. Hm, yes, I don’t know what happened to that news article. It was there when I posted…guess it finally hit the four-year expiration date, or something. Thanks for the other great links, though.

    All in all, I’d rather have the gritty wind of Beijing than dank humidity, though a mild and sunny spring would be better still!

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