Springtime, Yellow Springtime

Sometimes it’s hard to remember how far from home I really am. With the advent of spring, I am reminded in more ways than one. Most days now, temperatures stretch into the 50’s or 60’s. The frozen ground has thawed. Everywhere I walk, I am assaulted by the smells of a country gearing up for planting season. Unfortunately, this means that all those quaint little patches tucked away between the skyscrapers…


…have been piled with compost, everything from eggs to vegetables to things that were probably once fruits. It’s a little jarring to walk down the street and suddenly encounter a field of rotting food that smells like moldy feet.

Springtime also means the yearly advent of the Yellow Storms. Fierce winds over the deserts of Mongolia, China and Kazakhstan kick up massive dust storms that sweep west, covering China, Korea, Japan, and the Pacific. The worst storms have even added to the smog in LA.

The Yellow Storms are actually a pretty big deal over here. Type “Yellow Dust, Korea” into a Google image search, and you’ll get a wealth of pictures that will make your inner asthmatic wheeze. The Korean Meteorological Administration runs a forecasting service and sends out alerts when storms are imminent. They have three levels of warnings. During the lowest level, elderly, the very young, and people with severe respiratory conditions are cautioned to stay inside. During the mid range level, outdoor activities are prohibited for previously mentioned vulnerable groups, elementary classes have to stay indoors, and everybody is advised to avoid any strenuous outdoor activities. In the highest alert level, elementary school classes are cancelled and everybody (young and healthy or old and wheezy) is prohibited from doing anything outside.

Here’s a video posted to Youtube of a massive dust storm rolling through China. That was supposedly around March 7th. I've read that it takes about three days for such storms to reach Korea. We didn’t notice much. The air got a little hazier, the mountains became a little less distinct, but otherwise nothing changed. Thankfully.

Still, it is pretty early in the season.


If you’d like more information on Yellow Dust, here are a few helpful links:

The Korea Meteorological Administration introductory page on the issue.

The informational page on Korea 4 Expats website.

A lengthy story in Korea JoonAng Daily.