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Thursday, December 22, 2016

Snow falls on Sahara; Arctic ice tethers near melting point

The sandy dunes near an Algerian town in the Sahara Desert has seen snow for the first time in 37 years, in what has been described has an extraordinarily rare sight in the largest hot desert on Earth.
UK newspaper The Independent reported last night that snow fell on the town of Ain Sefra on Dec 19, and then lingered for a day before melting away.
The scene was captured from space by the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (Nasa) Landsat 7 satellite, according to The Washington Post, as well as on the ground by photographer Karim Bouchetata, according to The Independent.
“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,” Karim was quoted as saying.
The town is located 1,078 metres above sea level in the Atlas Mountains, on the northern edge of the Sahara Desert. Snow was reportedly last seen at the town in 1979.
Temperatures there averaged 9°C in December last year and 6°C in the year before, according to the weather services website Weather Underground.
According to Washington Post, checks on weather maps showed that temperatures around Ain Sefra was 10 to 15 degrees Fahrenheit lower than the surrounding area.
“An unusually strong area of low pressure at high altitudes was passing over the region, which forced the air to rapidly rise and cool, enabling the exceptionally rare snowfall,” the report said.
Meanwhile in a separate report a day earlier by the Washington Post, the daily said Arctic temperatures would be tethering close to melting point.

This is the second year in a row for this to be happening in late December, the report said, where temperatures are between 40 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than normal.
This was attributed to a storm in the east of Greenland, which was drawing warmth into the Arctic. This is possible due to the depleted ice cover in the Nordic Sea, allowing warm air to surge through unimpeded.
“Arctic sea ice levels are at record lows. In November, the Arctic usually gains ice, but over a period of five days it saw 19,000 square miles (49,210 square kilometres) of ice cover vanish, which (the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) called ‘almost unprecedented’,” the report said.-Mkini

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