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Measures in Case of Yellow Dust

What is Yellow Dust?

What is Yellow Dust?
Yellow Dust usually occurs between March and May. This term describes fine sand or dry soil particles that have been blown up to the sky by strong winds and then spread across the sky through the atmosphere before slowly falling back down to the ground. Particulate matter is a term collectively referring to dust having a particle size of 10 μm (1 μm is 1 / 1,000 mm) or less, regardless of its source.
<The West Sea and East Sea covered in yellow dust (Wikipedia, 2014)>
<Seoul covered in yellow dust (Wikipedia, 2014)>

Yellow dust is yellow-colored dust originating from the dry deserts of China and Mongolia, or the Yellowstone zone of the Yellow river, that is whisked into the atmosphere by strong winds when the atmospheric pressure is low, and that is carried to South Korea and the surrounding regions through the air before slowly falling down to the ground.

While there is no specific size for yellow dust by definition, South Korea observes mostly yellow dust from 1 μm to 10 μm (1 μm being 1/1,000mm) in size. Yellow dust storms usually blur the field of view and change the sky’s color to a yellowish-brown, and the fine yellow dust affects both the human body and other life forms.

Period and Frequency of Yellow Dust

Over the last 10 years (2007~2016) there have been 23 yellow dust storms lasting for a total of 52 days, mostly always occurring between March and May (17 times, 42 days, 80%). These storms have been occurring for a longer period every year, going from 2.9 days in the 1980s to 5.3 days in the 1990s and 9.8 days in the 2000s. Nowadays, South Korea is even witnessing yellow dust in the fall and winter.

<Average number of yellow dust days in South Korea for the past decades>

Average number of yellow dust days in South Korea for the past decades
1981 - 1990
2.9 days
1991 - 2000
5.3 days
2001 - 2010
9.8 days

Preemptive Measures Against Yellow Dust

Yellow dust can cause respiratory diseases and even lead to death in the most extreme cases. Please familiarize yourself with the following points and prepare in advance to help minimize the damage caused by yellow dust.

Before a Yellow Dust Occurs

  1. At Home
    • Check your windows to avoid yellow dust from entering your home.
    • Equip your home with air purifiers, air humidifiers, etc.
    • When going outdoors, prepare protective glasses, masks, long-sleeved clothes, etc.
    • Place unpacked foods into sanitary containers to avoid pollution.


  1. At School and Other Educational Institutions
    • Analyze the weather forecast announced by the Korea Meteorological Administration and carefully estimate the need for shortened classes or cancelled lectures according to the situation.
    • Check the students’ emergency contact network and keep using this contact system.
    • In the case of dual-income families, let the children do self-study at school.
    • Promote the prevention measures against yellow dust to students and parents, and provide guidance.
  2. In Barns and Greenhouses
    • Prepare to evacuate livestock from yards and rangelands.
    • Prepare covers for neglected feed or feed in open air storage such as rice straw.
    • Check power sprayers and other equipment used for yellow dust cleansing.
    • Check the doors and ventilation equipment of facilities such as greenhouses or conservatories.
    • ※ For manufacturing businesses, avoid open air storage for your materials and products in factories. If unavoidable, cover it in packaging.

Measures in Case of a Yellow Dust

When yellow dust is predicted on TV, on the radio or on the internet, avoid going outdoors and check on more vulnerable people such as elderly people living alone.

In Case of a Yellow Dust

  1. At Home and in Places that Manage Food
    • Avoid going outdoors. When unavoidable, wear protective glasses, a mask and long-sleeved clothes. Wash your hands and brush your teeth once you come home.
    • Close your windows to avoid any yellow dust coming in and keep the indoor air pleasant with air purifiers and humidifiers.
    • Before cooking, thoroughly wash vegetables, fruits, fish and other agricultural products that may have been exposed to yellow dust.
    • To avoid second-hand pollution, thoroughly wash your hands before processing food and cooking, and keep the surrounding environment clean to prevent the contamination of cooking tools and instruments.
  2. At School and Other Educational Institutions
    • You must prohibit outdoor activities for kindergarten and elementary school students, and reduce class hours or cancel classes.
    • ※ Outdoor studying, sports events and other outdoor activities should be stopped or postponed.
  3. In Barns and Greenhouses
    • You must quickly evacuate livestock from yards and rangelands into barns to avoid any exposure to yellow dust
    • Close the barns’ doors and windows to reduce the infiltration of yellow dust and reduce exposure to outdoor air as much as possible.
    • Cover neglected feed or feed in open air storage such as hay or rice straw with vinyl or tent fabric.
    • Close the doors and ventilation equipment of facilities such as greenhouses or conservatories
    • ※ For manufacturing businesses, give attention to adjustments in work schedules, product packaging and cleanliness maintenance to avoid an increase in your defect rate or machine breakdowns in factories.

Measures in Case of a Yellow Dust

Once yellow dust pollution has disappeared, clean everything indoors and outdoors to completely remove dust. In the case of schools and other facilities, send more vulnerable people (children and the elderly) back home, and in the case of barns and greenhouses, disinfect the facilities.

Once Yellow Dust has Disappeared

  1. At Home and in Places that Manage Food
    • Ventilate indoor spaces with outside air,
    • Thoroughly clean any polluted goods that have been exposed to yellow dust before using them again.


  1. At School and Other Educational Institutions
    • Clean the school indoors and outdoors to remove dust.
    • Check the students’ health and either send home early those who show signs of having caught a cold or an eye disease or let them rest.
    • Vaccinate against infectious diseases that may occur after a period of yellow dust pollution, or disinfect the school cafeteria.
  2. In Barns and Greenhouses
    • Clean or disinfect facilities such as greenhouses and barns, as well as any objects in contact with the livestock, such as animal feed containers.
    • Remove dust from the livestock that were exposed to yellow dust and sterilize them.
    • Check for any signs of disease approximately two weeks after yellow dust has disappeared.
    • Immediately report any animal with symptoms such as those of foot-and-mouth disease.

Forecasting Yellow Dust

Average number of yellow dust days in South Korea for the past decades
Category Information Alert
Yellow Dust While forecasts about the possibility of yellow dust pollution and a storm’s current location are announced four times a day through weather reports, other forecasts about the yellow dust storm’s itinerary, arrival time and intensity are published on the internet and through emergency broadcasts. Alerts are made when it is expected that an average hourly fine dust (PM10) concentration of over 800㎍/㎥ will last more than two hours.

About Yellow Dust

  1. The Source of Yellow Dust
    • The major sources of yellow dust affecting South Korea are the Gobi Desert, the inner Mongolian plateau, the Northeastern desert areas and the Loess Plateau. 50% of the time, yellow dust in South Korea comes directly from the Gobi Desert and the inner Mongolian plateau, 14% of the time, the dust originates from that area but passes through the Northeastern desert areas before landing in South Korean, and 17% of the time, the dust comes from the Loess Plateau. Consequently, at total of 81% of yellow dust comes from the Gobi Desert and the inner Mongolian plateau. Apart from that, the Northeastern desert areas and the Loess Plateau both directly cause 18% and 1% of yellow dust storms in South Korea respectively.


About Yellow Dust

  1. Components and Effects of Yellow Dust
    • Coming from the soil, yellow dust’s main ion components are potassium, iron, aluminum, and magnesium. While the negative effects of fine particles have widely been emphasized lately, pure yellow dust that has not been mixed with pollutants has buffering capacity, preventing the acidification of the soil it lands on.
    • Effects of Yellow Dust

      Negative effects Positive effects
      • Prevents the growth of crops and broad-leaved trees by obstructing the pores through which they breath.
      • Penetrates deeply into the respiratory tract and causes eye diseases
      • Sinks into and sticks to laundry and foods.
      • Possibility of aircraft accidents due to engine damage or low visibility during landing and takeoff.
      • Possibility of damage to precision machinery such as semiconductors
      • Blocking and scattering of sunlight (low visibility)
      • Affects the heat balance of the Earth's atmosphere (Cooling effect by radiant heat absorption)
      • Increases cloud-generating condensation nuclei
      • Neutralizes acid rain thanks to its high concentration of alkaline components.
      • Prevents acidification of soils and lakes by supplying alkaline components to mountains and lakes
      • Supplies minerals in abundance and purifies the West Sea
      • Provides inorganic salts to marine plankton (increases biological productivity)
      • Strengthens inorganic salt absorption thanks to microorganisms present in soil

      ★ Comparing Yellow Dust and Particulate Matter

    • Effects of Yellow Dust

      Category Yellow Dust Particulate Matter
      • Dust blown from Chinese and Mongolian deserts
      • While there is no standard size for yellow dust, South Korea observes mostly yellow dust from 1 μm to 10 μm in size
      • PM10 having a diameter of 10㎛ or less and PM2.5 having a diameter of 2.5㎛ or less
      • Mainly soil components
      • Some mineral components, but mostly carbon and ionic components
      • Negative effects on crop growth and factory operations (e.g. semiconductor factories), and positive effects such as prevention of soil acidification.
      • PM is not filtered through the nasal mucosa and penetrates directly into the alveoli when inhaled, increasing the possibility of asthma, lung disease, and early mortality.
        ※Hardly any positive effects
      Forecasting system
      • Yellow dust warning system
        ※Three levels: Low, dense, very dense
      • Five levels of warning for PM10 (Warnings for PM2.5, Ozone and other pollutants are under preparation)
      • Special news reports on Particulate Matter (Warnings, alerts, etc.)
      Competent department
      • Korea Meteorological Administration
      • Ministry of Environment

Main Contact Information and Websites

Website/Contact Information

  1. Emergency Phone Numbers for Reporting in Case of Crisis or Emergency
    • Disaster reporting 119, Crime reporting 112, Consultation on civil affairs 110
    • National Disaster and Safety Status Control Center, Ministry of the Interior and Safety (MOIS) 82-44-205-1543
  2. MOIS Announcements on National Action Plans, Countermeasures, etc.
  3. Contact information and Homepages of Relevant Institutions