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Citing Weather Information As State Secrets, China Refuses Asia Countries To Release Data On Yellow Sand

Posted by Author on February 19, 2008

The Yomiuri Shimbun, Japan, Feb. 18, 2008-

A plan for Japan, China, South Korea and Mongolia to observe and forecast airborne desert sand has been hampered as China has withdrawn from the scheme, citing weather information as state secrets.

The Environment Ministry’s Web site, which is to release forecasts on so-called yellow sand to the public, will start the service later this month as planned, but without the cooperation of the country where most of the sand originates.

According to ministry sources, with China reneging on its promise of cooperation by refusing to provide data, the system’s observation and forecast accuracy will be insufficient.

Between March and May every year, large quantities of yellow sand are sent airborne from the Gobi and Taklamakan deserts, with much of it catching westerly winds that carry it toward Japan, causing numerous problems in places the sand passes over.

In China and South Korea, many residents suffer from respiratory problems due to the sand. In Japan, mainly in Kyushu, laundry is often tinged yellow by the sand and the percentage of faulty products made by precision machinery factories has increased.

According to the Fukuoka Institute of Health and Environmental Sciences in Dazaifu, Fukuoka Prefecture, when the sand was observed in the prefecture early last April, the concentration of dust in the air exceeded normal levels across the prefecture and the air took on a brownish tint.

The Meteorological Agency currently releases data on airborne yellow sand obtained from observations at 85 sites across the nation. But these observations are done visually, meaning airborne sand is only noted when it reaches the nation. These observations alone cannot accurately forecast the level of yellow sand approaching Japan.

The ministry began testing yellow sand forecasts on its Web site last spring.

Starting later this month, the ministry had planned to release more detailed sand forecasts based on data from one observation site in China, one in South Korea, three in Mongolia and 10 in Japan.

The information to be released by the ministry was to include actual quantities of airborne sand from near ground level up to six kilometers up. It also was to model how the sand is spread.

The Chinese observation site was to be in Beijing, which is right on the main path of yellow sand headed to Japan, making a Beijing observation post essential.

But in April, just before the start of a test run of the international system, Beijing suddenly notified Tokyo of its refusal to provide the data. China had enacted a law prohibiting bringing any weather observation data to be provided overseas, saying weather observation information as a state secret that affects national security and interests.

The situation has remained unchanged since then, forcing the ministry to forecast yellow sand quantities starting later this month without information on how much sand has been stirred up in China.

China also canceled in May a plan to improve its observation network with seven more facilities to be built with official development assistance from Japan.

Japan canceled a 250 million yen worth of grants in aid earmarked in fiscal 2006 for the cooperation.

In January, Japan, China and South Korea started joint research on yellow sand, but as the situation currently stands, data on the origin of the sand is only available from Mongolia. The limited data is expected to hamper future research.

An official of the ministry’s Global Environmental Issues Division said, “We heard from the Chinese side that it would be difficult to allow the information to be publicized on the Internet, even if data could be provided for joint research being done for the Beijing Olympics being held this year.”

Since 2000, the number of days when yellow sand was observed has rapidly increased. Increased deforestation and desertification caused by excessive livestock breeding has been cited as a cause.

Original report from The Yomiuri Shimbun

One Response to “Citing Weather Information As State Secrets, China Refuses Asia Countries To Release Data On Yellow Sand”

  1. iblosted said

    post people at the borders, when ya see it a coming, tell the people.
    gee thats hard/

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