As global temperatures continue to increase and human activities continue to expand, many countries and regions are witnessing the consequences of global climate change. Mongolia, a nomadic and picturesque landlocked country, has battled with ongoing desertification, recurring droughts, and increasingly frequent sandstorms in recent decades. Here we review the abrupt changes in the climate regime of Mongolia over the recent few decades, by focusing on atmospheric events, land degradation and desertification issues, and the resulted sandstorms. We found that between mid-March to mid-April 2021, the country encountered violent gusts of wind, the Mongolia cyclone, and the largest sandstorms in a decade, causing extensive damages nationwide and trans-regional impact in East Asia including northern China, Japan, and most parts of South Korea. A multitude of factors have contributed to this current ecological crisis. Since 1992, the country has transformed to a market economy with high economic growth driven by mineral and agricultural exports. Overgrazing along with intensified human activities such as coal mining has contributed to the widespread land degradation in Mongolia, while climate change has become a major driving factor for recurring droughts. Annual mean air temperature in Mongolia increased by 2.24 °C between 1940 and 2015, while annual precipitation decreased by 7%, resulting in a higher aridity across the country. A positive feedback loop between soil moisture deficits and surface warming has led to a hotter and drier climate in the region, with over a quarter of lakes greater than 1.0-km2 dried up in the Mongolian Plateau between 1987 and 2010. Increased temperatures, decreased precipitation coupled with land degradation have resulted in a persisting drying trend, with more than three-quarters of land in Mongolia being affected by drought and desertification. The 2021 East Asia sandstorms drew international attention to ecological issues that have culminated for decades in Mongolia. Collaborative efforts from policy makers, local residents, and scientists from both its local and the global research community are urgently needed to address the grand and rapidly aggravating ecological challenges in Mongolia.
Authors and Publishers
Han Dai & Zhaolin Gu
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