Asian Dust Storms

By George Grow

This is the VOA Special English SCIENCE REPORT.

An international team of scientists is studying the problem of pollution and dust in Asia. One-hundred-thirty scientists from twelve countries have gathered in the western Pacific area to observe thick dust storms. They will observe the dust storms as they mix with some of the world's heaviest pollution.

The thickest dust storms in recent years were reported in Beijing, China and other Asian cities last spring. The dust storms came from deserts in China and Mongolia. This year, similar dust storms have begun moving east toward large Asian cities and the northwest Pacific Ocean.

The dust storms happen in winter over deserts high above sea level. In the spring, the storms move east, over large cities in China, Japan and Korea. By summer, rainstorms break up the dust and help reduce pollution in the air.

The scientists plan to observe the dust storms through the middle of May. They are using research ships, airplanes, satellites and instruments on the ground to gather information.

The study is known as the Aerosol Characterization Experiment, or ACE-Asia. The American National Center for Atmospheric Research reported on the study.

Aerosols are very small particles in the air. The scientists are studying aerosols that contain sulfate and carbon. They are produced by the burning of soft coal, wood and plants. Barry Huebert of the University of Hawaii is the lead investigator for the study. He says developing nations in Asia use a mixture of fuels that are not used in other areas.

Richard Dirks of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research is the director of field operations for the study. He will supervise the study from project headquarters in Iwakune, Japan. He says the study will help scientists better understand how human activities affect Earth's climate. He notes that the project involves countries that have not worked together in the past.

ACE-Asia is the third in a series of pollution studies. The first was based in Tasmania, Australia. The goal of that study was to measure pollution levels in a clean environment. The second study was in the Canary Islands. Scientists there studied pollution from Europe mixing with dust from the Sahara Desert. This year, the scientists are measuring the heaviest aerosol pollution on Earth.

This VOA Special English SCIENCE REPORT was written by George Grow.

Voice of America Special English