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Sunday, 17 January 2021

What IS going on with the world's weather? Ice blankets the Sahara desert while snow falls in Saudi Arabia where temperature has dropped to -2C

  • The desert town of Ain Sefra in Algeria was blanketed with snow last Wednesday as temperatures hit -3C
  • Photographer Karim Bouchetata captured the unusual sight in stunning images of sheep on the sand dunes 
  • Meanwhile residents of Saudi Arabia's Aseer region flocked to the desert to see the extremely rare snowfall
  • Half a century has passed since temperatures in the southwestern province dipped below freezingWhile January brings snow and ice to many parts of the world, the deserts of Africa and the Middle East are not usually among them.

    But this month has seen snowfall in the Sahara and temperatures in Saudi Arabia plummeting to -2C (28F).

    A photographer has captured ice on the sand dunes in the Sahara in dreamlike images as temperatures dipped below freezing. Meanwhile in Saudi Arabia, locals and foreigners alike flocked to the desert in the Aseer region to enjoy the rare sight, Geo TV reported.

    While January brings snow and ice to many parts of the world, the deserts of Africa and the Middle East are not usually among them. Pictured: Snow on the dunes of the Sahara Desert in Algeria

    While January brings snow and ice to many parts of the world, the deserts of Africa and the Middle East are not usually among them. Pictured: Snow on the dunes of the Sahara Desert in Algeria

    This month has seen snowfall in the Sahara and temperatures in Saudi Arabia plummeting to -2C (28F). Pictured: Snow-capped sand dunes in the Algerian Sahara

    This month has seen snowfall in the Sahara and temperatures in Saudi Arabia plummeting to -2C (28F). Pictured: Snow-capped sand dunes in the Algerian Sahara

    Sheep can be seen standing on the ice-covered dunes in the Algerian Sahara on Wednesday as temperatures dipped to -3C (26.6F)

    Sheep can be seen standing on the ice-covered dunes in the Algerian Sahara on Wednesday as temperatures dipped to -3C (26.6F)Photographer Karim Bouchetata's stunning images showed the small Algerian desert town of Ain Sefra. 

    Sheep can be seen standing on the ice-covered dunes on Wednesday as temperatures dipped to -3C (26.6F). 

    Ain Sefra, known as The Gateway to the Desert, is around 1,000 metres (3.280feet) above sea level and is surrounded by the Atlas Mountains. 

    The Sahara Desert covers most of Northern Africa and it has gone through shifts in temperature and moisture over the past few hundred thousands years. 

    A photographer has captured ice on the sand dunes in the Sahara in dreamlike images as temperatures dipped below freezing

    A photographer has captured ice on the sand dunes in the Sahara in dreamlike images as temperatures dipped below freezing

    Photographer Karim Bouchetata's stunning images showed snowfall on the dunes outside the small Algerian desert town of Ain Sefra

    Photographer Karim Bouchetata's stunning images showed snowfall on the dunes outside the small Algerian desert town of Ain Sefra

    Ain Sefra, known as The Gateway to the Desert, is around 1,000 metres (3.280feet) above sea level and is surrounded by the Atlas Mountains

    Ain Sefra, known as The Gateway to the Desert, is around 1,000 metres (3.280feet) above sea level and is surrounded by the Atlas Mountains

    Although very dry today, the desert is expected to become green again in about 15,000 years.

    Residents of Saudi Arabia expressed joy and excitement over the rare snowfall in the country's Aseer region where mountains and deserts were blanketed in white.

    Half a century has passed since the temperature in the region dropped below freezing.  

    The temperature fell as low as -2C (28F) in the southwestern region where camels were pictured surrounded by snow.

    Residents of Saudi Arabia expressed joy and excitement over the rare snowfall in the country's Aseer region where mountains and deserts were blanketed in white. Pictured: Camels in the snow in Saudi Arabia

    Residents of Saudi Arabia expressed joy and excitement over the rare snowfall in the country's Aseer region where mountains and deserts were blanketed in white. Pictured: Camels in the snow in Saudi Arabia

    Half a century has passed since the temperature in the kingdom's southwestern Aseer region dropped below freezing. Pictured: Camels and a local man in the Saudi Arabian snow

    Half a century has passed since the temperature in the kingdom's southwestern Aseer region dropped below freezing. Pictured: Camels and a local man in the Saudi Arabian snow

    The temperature fell as low as -2C (28F) in the southwestern region where camels were pictured surrounded by snow

    The temperature fell as low as -2C (28F) in the southwestern region where camels were pictured surrounded by snow

    How common is snow in the desert? 

    Snow and ice are unusual in desert regions but not completely unknown.

    Temperatures in deserts can drop dramatically overnight but any snowfall is usually melted early the following day.

    In cases like those seen this month in Algeria and Saudi Arabia, high pressure systems of cold air have moved over land to the deserts, causing lower temperatures.

    Such anticyclones tend to reach Saudi Arabia by moving clockwise out from Central Asia, picking up moisture en route which cools to form snow.  

    January 2021 saw snow come to the Sahara and Saudi Arabia but its not the first time these usually blisteringly hot spots have been blanketed in white. 

    In 2018, Ain Sefra, a desert town in the Algerian Sahara, was dusted in snow reportedly for the third time in 40 years. 

    The phenomenon has been noted in the town in 2021, 2018 and 2017, with the last recorded snowfall before that being in 1980.

    Temperatures in the town usually range from 12C in January, the coldest month, to nearer to 40C in July. 

    While the Aseer region of Saudi Arabia had its first snowfall in half a century this January, snow has hit elsewhere in the desert kingdom in recent years. 

    In 2020, temperatures dipped below freezing in the country's mountainous northwestern regions including Tabuk, as a blizzard prompted officials to warn residents to keep warm.

    A year earlier, snow fell in April.  

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