It was hard to breathe and see in China’s capital this week after a dust storm rolled in, from the neighboring country of Mongolia and from the Chinese region called Inner Mongolia, and blanketed Beijing.

The South China Morning Post says air quality in the city dropped to hazardous levels and people were warned to stay indoors, or wear a mask when venturing outside. Videos, like the one above, show a hazy yellow sky with almost zero visibility due to massive dust storms.

A sky choked with dust may sound foreign to most of the people living in the United States, as the climate and weather is China is an entirely different world. Here are a few ways Beijing’s weather contrasts to that in big American cities like New York City and Los Angeles.

Beijing Dust Storms

The dust storm in Beijing this week was intense, but it’s not a rare or short occurrence: “Spring is northern China’s dust and sandstorm season when winds whip across the vast Gobi Desert, picking up fine sand and dust particles, dumping them along a belt of heavily populated land further south,” the South China Morning Post explained. “The storms were expected to move southwards on Friday, aided by a strong north wind, the [National Environmental Monitoring Centre] said. Some parts of southern China would also be plagued with severe air pollution over the weekend.”

According to the BBC, the dust storms are also happening more often as deserts expand with climate change and cities expand with more people.

Read: Photos of the U.S. Before Environmental Laws


The biggest cities in the U.S. have also experienced flooding after heavy rains or full-on hurricanes, but places like New York City, Los Angeles, Boston and Houston are all connected to large bodies of water, whereas Beijing is more inland. About five years ago, Beijing got the heaviest rain it had in 60 years and the flooding killed dozens of people, including by drowning, roof collapses and electrocution. Beijing was also one of the cities hit hard last year in flooding that affected much of the normally dry northern China.


The smoky fog that can cloud up U.S. cities is nothing compared to the dense cover in Beijing and other parts of China. Smog is visible air pollution, showing people all the car exhaust, burning coal and other dirty emissions they are pumping into the air. China is notorious for its choking smog levels but although the country has taken steps in recent years to alleviate the problem, the smog has not lifted. It has even turned snow into a disgusting falling grime.

See also:

The Worst Drought Humans Have Ever Seen

A Planet’s Weird Weather