• Hunshdak sandy lands;
  • climate condition;
  • drought development;
  • dust storm increase;
  • wind velocity


From 1961 to 2008, the overall frequency of dust storms in northern China has shown an unquestionable reduction. However, the Hunshdak Sandy Lands of northern China display an increasing frequency in dust storm activities, especially during the period 2001 to 2008. In an attempt to explore the cause of this increase, a comprehensive investigation was conducted by examining the climate variables, the average normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) and the local inhabitant migrations. The climate variables include local precipitation, temperature, aridity, evaporation, relative humidity, soil moisture and wind speed. Moreover, by analyzing the 2001–2008 average anomaly charts (relative to the 30 year climatology of 1971–2000) of the upper air and surface conditions, an advantageous atmospheric circulation background for drought development over the Hunshdak was confirmed. Meanwhile, a multivariable step-regression model was employed to distinguish the significant variables of the climate elements mentioned before. The model output suggests that aridity is the leading factor impacting the Hunshdak dust storm frequency. During 2001 to 2008, the lack of local precipitation, higher temperature and strong evaporation deteriorated the local surface condition to below that before 2000, which is verified by the reduction of vegetation cover (NDVI), soil moisture and relative humidity. Furthermore, compared to the 30 year climatology of the wind speed observed during dust storm occurrence time, the mean velocity of 2001–2008 was reduced by 3.0 m s−1, indicating that even with relatively weaker winds, dust storms still occurred primarily due to the degeneration of surface conditions around the Hunshdak. Copyright © 2011 Royal Meteorological Society