Morning Post: Dust Storms Shadow Beijing and China's Application For the Olympic Games
The city of Beijing was once again hit by dust storms on the 1st day of 2001. The storms were so severe that many airplanes were prevented from landing. People throughout the northeast suffered greatly from this severe weather, which cast a shadow on Beijing's application to host the Olympic Games in 2008.
According to a report from Xinhua News Agency, these severe dust storms had affected most areas in north China. The storms had mostly passed by the morning of Jan 2nd. But Weather experts warned, however, that since these storms were of unusual severity and came much earlier in the year than expected, the related government departments should take note and make preparations for more.
According to the newspaper Beijing Youth, heavy winds prevented airplanes from landing at Capital Airport after 10:00am on Jan 1st. By 3:00pm, there were more than one thousand passengers whose flights were delayed by the weather.
The Airline Management Department of Capital Airport reported wind speeds on the morning of Jan 1st, of above 26m/s, which was far more than the limitation of 18m/s set by the Chinese Airplane Management Department. It also led to a tangential change of the direction of the wind (when two winds run into each other at right angles). This forced about 70 airplanes to reroute to Tianjin, Dalian, and Shijiazhuan airports instead of Beijing.
After 4:00pm, the airplanes which had been forced to land at other airports, were able to continue on to Capital Airport. These unusually intense dust storms caused the cancellation of 26 flights, and many other flights were delayed.
The Xinhua Agency quoted an expert from the Center Weather Station, who explained that the severe dust storms were caused by a series of events. There has been a lack of rain recently in north China, which dried out the topsoil. Winter snowfall was unusually light in Hebei and Inner Mongolia province, which left a large area of desiccated field exposed. When the heavy wind began, this exposed, dried topsoil was sucked up and carried across northern China.
Sand and dust storms are not unusual in the Beijing region during the spring season. In last spring, Beijing was hit by this weather 12 times. What made this incident unusual is the severity, and the fact that it occurred in January, three months before it is expected.
This dust storm was the first of the winter and the first of the new year In Beijing's history; it is very rare to have this type of weather in this season. Since it visited Beijing on the New Year day, many people are worried that dust storms this coming spring will be even worse than last year. People are even more worried about Beijing's application to Olympic Games in 2008, since it could be adversely affected by the unpredictable and inclement weather.
Beijing has done a lot to attract the Olympic Games. The government has taken steps to make environmental improvements, improve traffic flow, help citizens speak English, etc. But the weather is one of the variables, which the Beijing government cannot control.
Vice-Mayor of Beijing Liu Jingmin, the Vice-Chair of the standing Committee for Olympic Games Application , said dust storms generally hit Beijing in March, so that the International Olympic Expedition Committee Group should not meet the terrible weather.
On Feb. 21, the International Olympic Committee will send a group to Beijing to see how it is prepared for the Olympic Games. This investigation is vital for the success of Beijing's application. If they meet the sand and dust storms during their visit in Beijing, they will not feel confidant about the slogan "Green Olympics" being used by Beijing.