Seoul and southern parts of the Chungcheong region in central Korea came under the influence of a weak sandstorm from China and Inner Mongolia on Tuesday morning. This is the third sandstorm this year after some mild ones in Seoul early March and marks the start of the spring sandstorm season.
The Korea Meteorological Administration said most of the dust is expected to blow through the country without settling, but some areas are expected to see higher-than-usual amounts of dust. A weak sandstorm usually has a dust density of less than 400㎍/㎥.
There is a chance of stronger sandstorms to follow. "Snow has melted in the regions where the sandstorms originate, so all it takes are some strong winds to carry a massive sandstorm this way," a weatherman said. "The worst time of the year is until early April, when the country falls under the effect of strong northwesterly winds."
But the National Institute of Environmental Research said although Tuesday's sandstorm may be weak, it could contain up to two or three times more heavy metals than ordinary winds. It is being carried by westerly winds past China's eastern seaboard, which is home to a heavy concentration of industrial belts, raising the possibility of picking up lead, arsenic and other toxic particles.
"By analyzing 28 sandstorms that affected Korea over the last three years, we found that 13 of them carried pollutants after passing through China's eastern industrial area," said Kim Jong-chun at NIER.