Monday, March 22, 2010

Korea Blanketed by Worst Yellow Dust

Last year I wrote about "Hwang-sa" or "Yellow Dust".

It's that time of the year again when the dreaded dust storm is back.
Just read this article on the Korea Times site.

Korean Peninsula Blanketed by Worst Yellow Dust

By Bae Ji-sook
Staff Reporter

The Korean Peninsula experienced its worst case of yellow dust ever recorded Saturday and Sunday, leading the weather administration to advise people to take extra care as more is expected this month.

The Korea Meteorological Administration (KMA) posted a special yellow dust warning for most parts of the country Saturday.

The dust in the air marked 2,684 micrograms per cubic meter in Daegu; 2,408 micrograms in Jindo, South Jeolla Province; and 1,048 micrograms in Sokcho, Gangwon Province. These are the worst figures since the KMA started taking dust density measurements in 2005.

According to the agency, the special warning is posted only when the density is over 800 micrograms per cubic meter. The KMA posted its first such warning in 2007.

Drivers and pedestrians said the thick dust clouded their visibility.

The particles also kept many people from going outdoors for fear of respiratory problems.

A KMA spokesman said the dust storm was initiated in the Gobi. ``Dust from Neimenggu (Inner Mongolia) and the yellow soil of the Hwangho River valley (China) have also contributed to the record amount of pollutants in the air.

Another dust storm is heading here from the inner part of China, likely causing more dust across the nation by Monday,'' he said.

Air pollutants such as nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide blowing in from China have long been a headache here.

The agency asked people to take precautionary measures when going outdoors and pay attention to individual hygiene.

Dust storms are said to cause or worsen conjunctivitis, respiratory disorders, allergic rhinitis and various forms of eczema.

Some civic activists have long urged the government to verify the pollutants blowing in from China and ask Beijing to take remedial action.

The Ministry of Environment has been lukewarm in acknowledging its effects. The authorities earlier this month delayed the release of reports on how air pollutants from China affect Korea and Japan.

A ministry official said the cautious stance was taken out of concern over a possible diplomatic conflict caused by the report.

The report on Long-Range Trans-Boundary Air Pollutants in Northeast Asia is based on a meeting of a group of experts in Japan in February. The ministry was to release its result on March 10. However, it has cancelled the release due to a ``lack of preparation between ministries.''

Asked whether the report needs approval from other ministries, an environment ministry official said, ``Some found the content possibly troublesome with China.''

According to a report by the National Institute of Environmental Research in January, about half of the air pollutants in the atmosphere here are carried in from China. 


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