Displayed with permission from STEAM Register

We were skeptical, but NASA on Thursday posted an explanation that should set things straight once and for all.

Lola Gayle, STEAM Register

Remember the amateur photographer who captured snow in the Sahara Desert? We were skeptical, but nonetheless the proof was in the pictures.

The series of photos showing a thin veil of white atop the orange dunes were captured by Karim Bouchetata. See his Facebook page for more. Sadly, the snow was gone by the next day.

If you too doubted the validity of those images, NASA on Thursday posted an explanation on their Earth Observatory website that should set things straight once and for all.

The truth is, snow in Africa is quite common at higher elevations. For instance, Mount Kilimanjaro has long been crowned by a cap of snow and ice, although in recent years it has been shrinking. Skiers also travel to the Atlas Mountains of Morocco and Algeria, as well as a few spots in South Africa and Lesotho.

See Also: Why Is It Snowing In Hawaii?

Aerial view of the Kibo summit of Mount Kilimanjaro in 1938. Credit: American Geographical Society Library, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Libraries/Wikimedia Commons

Snow on the edge of the Sahara Desert, however, is a rare occurrence. Nonetheless, snow really did fall on the Algerian town of Ain Sefra on December 19, 2016. The last time this happened was in February of 1979.

The Enhanced Thematic Mapper Plus (ETM+) on the Landsat 7 satellite acquired a natural-color image of snow in North Africa on December 19, 2016. The scene shows an area near the border of Morocco and Algeria, south of the city of Bouarfa and southwest of Ain Sefra, which is sometimes referred to as the « gateway to the desert. »

Credit: NASA Earth Observatory image by Joshua Stevens, using Landsat data from the U.S. Geological Survey and MODIS data from LANCE/EOSDIS Rapid Response. Download larger image here.

According to NASA, « The snow fell in a region where summertime temperatures average 37°Celsius (99°Fahrenheit), though wintertime temperatures have been known to get down into the single digits Celsius (30s Fahrenheit). Such moisture is as rare as the cool temperatures, given that just a few centimeters (inches) of precipitation fall here in an entire year. »

So there you have it. Thanks for clearing that up, NASA!

See Also: Know Your Snow – What Is Rime

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