Snow falls in the Sahara desert for the fifth time in 40 years
New images of the snow-covered Sahara Desert surfaced on social media this week.
We all know the Sahara as the driest desert in the world, with temperatures reaching 50°C. Along with Death Valley in California and some towns near the equator like Dallol in Ethiopia and Wadi Halfa in Sudan, it’s one of the hottest places on earth.
The immense desert extends over 11 countries: Algeria, Chad, Egypt, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Western Sahara, Sudan and Tunisia. The sand dunes can reach up to 180 meters high and water is scarce in the region.
So when recent photos showed the dunes covered in beautiful icy patterns, it may have left you wondering: how is this possible?
Where are the photos taken and what do they show?
The images, captured earlier in January by photographer Karim Bouchetata, reveal snow and ice near the town of Ain Sefra in northwestern Algeria.
The area has only experienced snow a handful of times in the past 40 years. The only recorded snow incidents in Ain Sefra were 1979, 2017, 2018 and 2021.
Ain Sefra is located in the Atlas Mountains, 1,000 meters above sea level and is nicknamed “the door to the desert”. It is located in the province of Naama in Algeria, near the Moroccan border.
When the photos were taken, temperatures had dropped to -2°C.
Is climate change causing snow in the Sahara?
Snow is very rare in the desert because there is usually not enough water in the air for it, although it can get very cold at night.
The climate crisis is unpredictable and, as it wreaks havoc in many African countries where temperatures are soaring, it can also lead to severe cold spells like this.
One scientific studies suggests that the extreme cold phenomena could be attributed to the warming of the Arctic, according to a study published in the Journal Science. Although it was conducted in the United States, it predicts that cold spells may become more likely all over the world due to global warming.
The study results “highlight another reason to rapidly reduce greenhouse gas emissions that drive global warming,” according to the World Economic Forum.
He adds, “and at the same time the need to develop better strategies to deal with extreme weather events, both hot and cold.”
It is important to note that human-caused climate change is driving the growth of the Sahara Desert. It is now about 10% larger than it was nearly a century ago.
Deserts are defined as places on Earth that receive less than 10 inches (25 centimeters) of precipitation per year, according to the US Geological Survey (USGS). So if the Sahara continues to expand, it makes drought more likely in surrounding countries.