Residents urged to avoid outdoor activities as high winds bring dust from the northwest.
Beijing was shrouded in thick brown dust that spiked pollution levels on Monday morning, as high winds blew sand from Inner Mongolia and other parts of northwest China.
The Chinese Meteorological Administration announced a yellow alert on Monday morning, saying the sandstorms had spread from Inner Mongolia to Gansu, Shanxi and Hebei provinces, which surround Beijing. He advised residents to avoid all outdoor activities.
Beijing’s official air quality index peaked at 500 on Monday morning, with floating particles known as PM10 reaching more than 8,100 micrograms per cubic meter in six parts of the city, according to the state tabloid Global Times. Visibility has been reduced to between 300 (984 feet) and 800 meters (2,624 feet), state media reported.
Readings of PM2.5, smaller particles that infiltrate the lungs, also approached 300 micrograms per cubic meter, well above China’s standard of 35 micrograms.
Beijing faces regular sandstorms in March and April due to its proximity to the enormous Gobi Desert as well as deforestation in northern China.
Beijing and surrounding areas have suffered from relatively high pollution levels in recent weeks, with the city also shrouded in smog when parliament opens on March 5.