Satellite photo shows snow in Sahara for first time in 40 years

'Everyone was stunned to see snow falling in the desert' says photographer, in hot, dry town where snow almost never falls

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Satellite images released by Nasa have revealed the extent of rare snowfall in the Sahara desert.

A vast expanse of what is usually one of the hottest and most arid places in the world was briefly coated with frost last week, for the first time in 37 years.

Before the snow melted, a day later, the Nasa Landsat 7 satellite captured what the strange scene looked like from space.

Snow last fell in the affected area of the northern Sahara desert in February 1979, when a brief snowstorm stopped traffic in some towns.

Summer temperatures in the region, around the Moroccan-Algerian border, typically average 37 degrees Celsius. 

Snow in the Moroccan desert was clearly visible from space (Nasa)

In the winter, the temperature can plummet to single digits, but the area experiences just a few centimetres of rain over the course of the year. Even if temperatures fall below freezing, the dry air usually stops snow flakes from forming. 

Nasa said a review of several years of satellite data suggests the unusual weather also affected a section of the Atlas mountain range.

December observations made over the past four years - snow shows up as a bright blue-green color. (Nasa)

Although the new satellite images show the extent of the rare weather, an amateur photographer stole the show by capturing a set of striking images of the snowfall in a small Algerian town on Monday 19 December.

Karim Bouchetata photographed the fleeting scene in Ain Sefra, which lies in the Atlas Mountains on the northern edge of the desert.

In his images a thin layer of snow rests on deep orange dunes, where he said it stayed for about a day, and forms whirling patterns where the slopes are too steep for it to settle. 

Mr Bouchetata said: "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.”