Dramatic satellite images reveal thick palls of dust choking Beijing and blowing across 2,000 miles of Asia
About a week ago, dust sweeping north from the Sahara blanketed parts of Eastern Europe, turning snow-covered ski slopes a strange shade of orange.

Starting on March 26th, China’s northern regions were hit with their fourth round of sandstorms this year, according to the Xinhua news agency. By the 28th, Beijing was choking on heavy dust mixed with air pollutants that pushed air quality readings to hazardous levels.

I created the animation of satellite images above to show just how bad things got. The ‘before’ image was acquired by NASA’s Terra satellite on March 24th. The ‘after’ image shows the view captured by Aqua, Terra’s twin, on March 28th.

Make sure to click on the animation and then click again to enlarge it. In the March 24th image, you can clearly make out a grid of roads and other signs of development in Beijing. In the March 28th image, Beijing and surroundings are totally obscured.

All told, 580,000 square miles of China were enveloped in dust, according to the China Meteorological Administration. That’s about a sixth of the country, and an area almost as expansive as Alaska.