December 23 2016 – Faith in the African Flakes? A rare storm and arctic air mass slipped south of Europe and across the Mediterranean Sea to northern Africa dropping snow earlier this week for the first time in 37 years. You may have noticed new reports of Aleppo in Syria being evacuated with snow and cold air impacting the refugees. Similar weather is responsible for a coating of snow on the edge of the Sahara Desert between Morocco and Algeria. According the NASA’s Earth Observatory:
“On December 19, 2016, snow fell on the Algerian town of Ain Sefra, which is sometimes referred to as the “gateway to the desert.” The town of roughly 35,000 people sits between the Atlas Mountains and the northern edge of the Sahara. The last recorded snowfall in Ain Sefra occurred in February 1979”.
So contrary to Band Aid in 1984, there is snow in Africa this Christmas. FITF! Well, some may be left along the highest ridges. In fact there is snow all year in the glacier on top of Kilomanjaro, Africa’s tallest peak. Also on the Atlas Mountains along the border between Morocco and Algeria. There is snow and some skiing in parts of South Africa as well.
The Enhanced Thematic Mapper Plus (ETM+) on the Landsat 7 satellite acquired a natural-color image (above) 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.
Though news accounts have been dominated by the snow in the desert city, a review of several years of satellite data suggests that snow is also unusual in this section of the Saharan Atlas range. The images below show December observations made over the past four years by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer(MODIS) instruments on NASA’s Aqua and Terra satellites. The false-color images blend infrared, shortwave infrared, and visible red wavelengths, and snow shows up as a bright blue-green color.
So, perhaps they do know it is Christmas time after all. Let’s keep political issues out of this for a moment and enjoy an 80s throwback to the Band Aid video many of us remember. Can you name any of the collection of these pop singers in 1984?