Taipei 101 disappears as China dust storm attacks Taiwan

Humongous dust storm from China shrouds Taipei 101

Polluted Taipei skyline on Oct. 30.

Polluted Taipei skyline on Oct. 30. (CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — As a monstrous dust storm descends on Taiwan, "red" pollution alerts have been issued at weather stations across northern Taiwan, and visibility has become so poor in Taipei that the city's iconic tower Taipei 101 has disappeared in the soupy air this morning (Oct. 30).

Taiwan's Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) reports that northeast winds are combining with a gargantuan dust storm from China's Inner Mongolia to drastically affect air quality across Taiwan today. The EPA predicts that the dust storm will continue to drift southward, affecting northern, central, and southern Taiwan, making the accumulation of air pollutants likely.

The EPA says that on Oct. 28, PM10 concentrations in Inner Mongolia reached 1,000 µg/m3, and on Oct. 29, PM10 levels in Nanjing and Shanghai reached 400 µg/m3. By 10 a.m. this morning, Taipei City's skyline was shrouded in such a thick layer of pollutants that Taipei 101 was nearly invisible.

Taipei 101 barely visible (left). (Taiwan EPA photo)

A red alert has been issued at 19 weather stations across northern Taiwan, including in Keelung, New Taipei City, Taipei City, and Taoyuan City, as well as the outer island of Matsu. Orange alerts for air that is unhealthy for sensitive groups have been issued at 21 weather stations in New Taipei City, Taipei City, Taoyuan City, Hsinchu County, Hsinchu City, Miaoli County, and Yunlin County in addition to outer islands Kinmen and Penghu.

By this evening, the air quality in central and northern Taiwan may gradually improve as rainfall and northeast winds filter out some of the pollutants. However, the extent to which the pollution diminishes depends on the intensity of the wind and rain.

Higher wind speeds in the afternoon in Yunlin, Chiayi, and Nantou Counties could kick up dust, affecting air quality in those areas. The EPA predicts that on Thursday and Friday, northeast winds will present conditions better suited to dispersing air pollution in the northern, northeastern, and eastern parts of the island.

Map of PM10 concentrations in Taiwan today. (Photo from Cheng Ming-dean's Facebook page)

However, inland areas of central and southern Taiwan located downwind could see air pollutants accumulate on Thursday. Meanwhile, Kaohsiung and Pingtung Counties are likely to see orange alerts.

View from Yangmingshan weather station. (EPA photo)