Buried alive in Mongolia's worst sandstorms in a decade
By Khaliun Bayartsogt and Emily Feng
A combination of extreme weather, climate change and environmental degradation have created the perfect storm – or rather, a series of eight cross-border sandstorms through March, April and May that have destroyed animal herds, exacerbated respiratory problems and cancelled flights in both Mongolia and China.
Mongolian climate experts say an unusually dry year for precipitation created huge amounts of loose sand. "Almost no snow fell last winter, and some provinces had no rain last summer," says Dulamsuren Daskhuu, a senior researcher at Mongolia's Meteorology and Environmental Monitoring Research Institute, a ministry.
The Gobi desert is also growing bigger. Desertification is creeping up into northern Mongolia at an average rate of 75 miles a year, according to Dulamsuren's institute.Part of the reason is climate change.
Another big factor in promoting sandstorms is overgrazing. The number of Mongolian livestock animals has nearly tripled in the last 30 years, according to Mongolia's national statistics office.