Snowing In The Sahara Desert, Is It Really Possible?

Samuel Reason | January 25th, 2018

It seems impossible to believe that it could snow in one of the hottest most extreme areas of the planet: The Sahara Desert. Yet earlier this month satellite photos revealed that this can actually be a reality. It seems that winter snowstorms can happen in the African Sahara Desert!

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Copernicus Sentinel-2 satellite which is a pivotal part of the European Space Agency’s operations was able to take beautiful photos of the rare snow covered dunes in northwest Algeria. Remember this is a place that records some of the hottest temperatures on Earth, just at the edge of the Sahara Desert. It is home to the driest and most extreme climate you can find, but it seems that no matter where you go you will always be in danger of some falling snow!

The snowstorm hit the arid region on the 7th January and though most of the snow melted quickly due to the temperature, the images by the satellite were taken on the 8th January showed some parts of the desert were still covered with up to 15 inches of snowfall. The snow fell on the Saharan mountain range which can be subject to significantly lower temperatures at night, even so, snowfall does not normally happen at all due to the air being so dry. We can only think that the snakes and scorpions would have been very confused!

This recent snowfall marks the thirds time it has ever snowed in the Sahara Desert since data has been recorded by scientists. The first occurrence was in February 1979 and then in December 2016, this new snowfall may be the result of ever-changing climates due to the over pollution. Will next year see the Sahara Desert descending into a full-on blizzard? No such an extreme shift in climate is very unlikely, but it does make you think that to save our ecosystem we need to start thinking ahead!

The Copernicus Sentinel-2 satellite’s main job for the ESA is to observe changes in vegetation around the globe. It also tracks any changes in the Earth’s landscape. This is an important job that lets scientist see and monitor changes in the Earth’s ecosystem, potentially even spotting natural disasters before they happen. It reported back as was expected: that in the desert there is very little flora at all! On this occasion we were very lucky the satellite was in the right place at the right time, to capture such stunning photos.

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