Dust storms swept over northwestern China in early April, 2014. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard NASA’s Terra satellite captured this true-color image on April 3 at 05:00 UTC (1:00 p.m. China Standard Time).
Most of the storms swept over dry valleys and basins in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. The region borders Mongolia in the northeast and Kazakhstan in the northwest. Black lines have been overlain on the map to delineate these boundaries.
A layer of dust swirls around the edges of the Taklimakan Desert, visible in the southwest corner of this image, and appears to curve to the east south of the Altai Mountains. The thickest dust obscures the ground in two sandy clouds northeast of Bosten Lake. Ürümqi, the largest city in western China, is completely hidden from view under the westernmost of these camel-colored dust clouds.
According to local news, heavy dust settled on Ürümqi on April 3, as heavy winds blew from the east. Visibility dropped rapidly, making driving difficult. Residents were warned to use masks when they left their home, due to the health risks of breathing dust and sand.