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.

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.

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. 

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.  

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. Read More

By Ian Dei

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