'Sandstorms a fact of nature'

By Sun Xiaohua (China Daily)
Updated: 2007-03-15 06:52

Spring sandstorms are inevitable, so people should accept the law of nature and not worry so much.

So said China's top meteorologist in order to correct what he considers public misunderstanding of the annual phenomenon.

Qin Dahe, director of the China Meteorological Administration (CMA) and a CPPCC member representing the scientific community, said sandstorms, as natural phenomena, could not be eliminated by human effort.

"The public should have a full understanding of sand and dust, which have complex effects on nature and society," Qin said.

"Without sandstorms, Chinese society would not have arisen."

Qin said sandstorms had contributed to the creation of nearly 1 million square kilometers of loess plateau. The Yellow River, which the Chinese think of as the Mother River, flowed over the plateau, washing away huge amounts of dust, thereby forming the North China Plain, where the Chinese people originated.

"It is impossible for human beings to get rid of sandstorms, which have existed for millions of years," Qin said.

However, he added that people could take measures to minimize the negative effects wrought by sand and dust, such as reforesting farmland, growing grassland in western parts of the country and reclaiming territory from the encroaching desert.

Meanwhile, Qin said meteorologists would work harder to better forecast sandstorms so the relevant authorities could take the appropriate preparatory steps.

The country's meteorological services are expected to expand their work from simply reporting the weather to giving early warnings of extreme weather and providing more in-depth forecasts of the climate.

"It is a big responsibility for meteorologists, but the country and the people need it," Qin said.

He said China's meteorologists can forecast about 80 percent of disastrous weather events, about five percentage points less than their US counterparts.

"They're already doing a pretty good job. One-hundred percent accuracy in meteorological work is impossible," Qin said.

(China Daily 03/15/2007 page6)

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