Snow In The Sahara? The World’s Hottest Desert Gets Frostbite

Breathtaking photos of rare snow in the Sahara Desert were captured by amateur photographer Karim Bouchetata in Ain Sefra, Algeria, on December 19. According to the Telegraph, Monday’s unusual occurrence was the first time the region had seen snow in 37 years.

“Reports suggest it is only the second time in living memory snow has fallen in one of the most hostile environments on Earth. The last time snow was reportedly seen in Ain Sefra, known as ‘The Gateway to the Desert’, where the Atla mountains meet the Sahara Desert, was on February 18, 1979, when the snow storm lasted just half an hour.”

Bouchetata described the shocked general reaction to the snow in the Sahara Desert, and then explained that the weather phenomena was also very short-lived. Although it seems like a white Christmas in Ain Sefra is still out of the question this year, the locals were nonetheless delighted with the briefly frozen landscape.

“Everyone was stunned to see snow falling in the desert; it is such a rare occurrence. It looked amazing as the snow settled on the sand and made a great set of photos. The snow stayed for about a day and has now melted away.”

The Sahara Desert stretches across most of North Africa, and boasts a population density of less than one person per square mile. Half of the desert receives less than an inch of rainfall every year, and rest gets only slightly more than that, with four inches of rain considered to be quite a windfall. Although it is now very arid, it was once lush, green, and heavily populated, and the area enjoyed very heavy rain from the oceanic winds. The transformation into a dry, hot desert occurred around 3,500 BCE. The desert encompasses approximately 6.6 million square miles, and is the largest hot desert in the world, with snow in the Sahara being an exceedingly rare event.

The stunning photos of the recent flurries show reddish-orange sand dunes dusted with a layer of white snow, a color combination that seemed to remind many commenters on reddit of various frozen desserts.

The ephemeral event was reminiscent of the last time snow fell in the Sahara. According to the Independent, in February 1979, a mild snowstorm also briefly materialized and stopped traffic for about 30 minutes.

Known as “The Gateway to the Desert,” Ain Safra has average summer temperatures of about 98F, with highs reaching 122F, but has seen record lows in the winter months drop to 13F. The town is approximately 1,078 meters above sea level, and is located near the Atlas Mountains. While the region does get cold, snow in the Sahara is still extremely rare because of the dryness of the air.

The amazing photographs of snow in the Sahara are so beautifully unreal, the popular myth-debunking site, Snopes, was forced to issue a verdict earlier this afternoon, labeling the unbelievably bizarre weather account as “True.”

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Somewhat predictably, the desert snowfall has caused a slew of social media commentary claiming that this event proves global warming is a hoax. However, according to NASA, nearly all climate scientists agree that man-made climate change is currently threatening the planet.

“Multiple studies published in peer-reviewed scientific journals show that 97 percent or more of actively publishing climate scientists agree: Climate-warming trends over the past century are extremely likely due to human activities. In addition, most of the leading scientific organizations worldwide have issued public statements endorsing this position.”

[Featured Image by Godmode/iStock]