(ECNS) -- This year, a total of 140 cities in China have experienced severe or worse sand and dust pollution, of which 131 cities encountered severe air pollution, the highest in the past five years, said a senior official of China's environment department on Tuesday.
This year, China has a total of six sand and dust weather events, with four in March, said Liu Bingjiang, head of the Department of Atmospheric Environment of Ministry of Ecology and Environment.
Liu said that the high frequency of sand and dust should be firstly attributed to the precipitation in Mongolia, a northern neighbor of China. Last year the local precipitation was less than the same period in the last 20 years, and the vegetation coverage in the sand source areas is poor.
Especially, rare warm weather occurred in early March, causing the frozen soil layer to melt rapidly, resulting in a large area of bare ground, which is conducive to sand and dust activities, he said.
Besides, meteorological conditions are favorable for the transmission of sand and dust from Mongolia, which is the other reason for China's high frequency of sand and dust pollution, according to Liu.
Data shows that this year, sand and dust in China has caused 1,533 days of exceeding air quality standards, an increase of 590 days compared to the same period last year.
As of March 26, the proportion of excellent air quality days nationwide has decreased by 5.4 percentage points due to sand and dust pollution, while that of heavily polluted days has increased by 1.2 percentage points.
Research shows that the number of sand and dust storms in the Gobi Desert area of Mongolia has increased fourfold in the past 10 years compared to the 1960s.
The frequency of sand and dust pollution in northern China will be higher than the same period in the past decade, Liu said.