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Gobi Desert Sand Storm Travels Thousands of Miles to Southern California

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While dust storms are usually secluded to desert areas, one giant dust storm originating in China's Gobi Desert traveled through Beijing, across the ocean, and finally to California's Eastern Sierra area. 

On Friday, residents in the area were confused by the dusty air, chalking it up to a local burn near Tom's Place. 

They were not aware that they were breathing in dust from thousands of miles away.

"It was a huge dust storm that somehow got into the jet stream and streamed across the Pacific Ocean, then swooped down and dumped it into California," Ted Schade, director of the local air pollution control district, said. 

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"I know it's hard to believe, but that's what it was."

Schade said the sand storm was so strong in China that it cleared out the air pollution in Beijing, but then replaced that air pollution with a dusty cloud of sand. 

The cloud could even be seen by NASA's Earth Observatory.

"On March 10, China Daily reported that winds had blown haze out of the Beijing area but brought in dust to replace it," an article published by NASA states. "As a result, the major air pollutant in the capital city changed from PM2.5 to PM10. Both PM2.5 and PM10 particles can pose health hazards, although PM2.5 particles are generally considered more dangerous because their smaller size allows them to be inhaled more deeply into the lungs."

"Within a few days, PM2.5 levels had risen again; the Twitter feed from the U.S. Embassy in Beijing reported PM2.5 readings of unhealthy and very unhealthy as of March 14."

That unhealthy air was then transported via the jet stream to Southern California.

Many believed it was due to the spring burning seasons, when officials close areas of land to burn unwanted vegetation in preparation for the dry summer season.

But it was not from burning, as the area was finished burning land for the season and the Mammoth area was also done. 

Large dust storms like this are very rare, as the last one occurred in 2009. But they are on the rise, as the global climate changes and deserts grow larger. Beijing has already endured two dust storms this year. 

The Eastern Sierra area can attest to the climate changes, as many residents are concerned over the lack of precipitation.

"We've only had a quarter inch of rain since the beginning of the year. That's unheard of and no one wants to push it [spring burning]. It's very, very dry," Schade said.

Sources: Daily Mail, Mammoth Times