Residents of Ain Sefra, a small town in Algeria, saw sand dunes surrounding their homes coated with snow after intense snowfall hit the Sahara Desert.
Local residents quickly flocked the sand dunes on the brink of the town, sharing photos and videos on social media showing vivid orange dunes dusted with snow. Residents of Ain Sefra, usually used to extreme heat that can reach well over 104 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer months, wore long coats and scarves while climbing the peaks.
According to ABC News, this is believed to be only the fourth time snow has fallen on Ain Sefra in northern Algeria in almost 40 years. Local Algerian media reports say that this event has occurred only three times in the past 37 years nearby the town of Ain Sefra.
The small town of Ain Sefra is known as “the gateway to the desert,” with temperatures staying around 100 degrees Fahrenheit throughout the summer. According to Forbes magazine, snowfall in the Sahara Desert was recorded just three times in the past four decades – in 1979, 2016 and 2017.
Ain Safra lies nestled in the Atlas mountain range and is surrounded by hills and towering sand dunes. Earlier on Sunday, its residents were able to see the mountain’s peaks almost completely covered with snow, and the typical red sand dunes bearing a thick layer of snow.
Sahara snowfall not an isolated incident
The rare and sudden snowfall in the Sahara desert follows outbreaks of extreme weather around the world. With the east coast of the U.S. facing the brutal winter storm Grayson, and Australia’s south-east being hit with the hottest recorded heatwave in nearly 80 years, the snowfall that hit the Sahara desert doesn’t seem like an isolated incident.
The unusually high air pressure over Europe caused large amounts of cold air to be pulled down into northern parts of Africa. The extremely cold air quickly moved south and rose 3,280 feet to the elevation of Ain Sefra. Surrounded by the Atlas mountains, the cold air caused a rare snowfall in the Sahara desert early Sunday morning.
While local residents making the most out of the unusual snowfall in Sahara, with children making snowmen and sliding on the dunes, local roads saw traffic slow down and intercity bus companies canceling their schedules. As local road assistance services were not equipped to manage snow and ice on their roads, cars and buses were left stranded on the roads for hours.
However, despite the conundrum the snowfall in the Sahara desert had caused, the snow didn’t last long. Temperatures rose to 42 degrees Fahrenheit by late afternoon, and all of the snow appears to have melted by nightfall.
In a recent report from Forbes, Trevor Nace, founder of Science Trends, suggested that the abrupt switches between humid and arid air have the potential to increase the fertility of the inhospitable Sahara desert.
The sudden and rare snowfall in the Sahara Desert could be the focal point of future research and studies in the region and might result in a more favorable agricultural outcome for many northern African countries struggling with severe droughts.