Sahara Snow On January 17 2012 – Is It Unprecedented?

Figure caption: This picture above from NASA is from a snowstorm on January 26 and 27 2005.

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A news story on the Denver Channel 9 NBC station on  January 18 2012 appeared [but does not seem to be picked up elsewhere] titled

Storm brings snow to Sahara Desert

This short news report with an exellent video reads

BECHAR, Algeria – Snow fell Tuesday in the Sahara Desert in western Algeria.

A 24-hour cold spell brought snow and rain to the region. Strong wind blew the snow across roads and buildings in the province of Bechar. Meteorologists predicted a return of good weather Wednesday. People who live in the region said the snow was good for the palm trees because it killed parasites. Bechar is located in the northern Sahara, about 36 miles south of the Moroccan border.

In the video, the NBC reporter adds that the snow and cold was considered by the local population to be a good thing as it kills parasites on the palm trees.

This is an extreme event, but how unusual is it? At the website About.com in a post   titled

Does it Snow in Africa?

she writes

My son recently asked me if it ever snows in Africa. His eyes rolled as I once again babbled on about the fact that there are 52 countries in Africa, each with its distinct geographic features affecting weather patterns, so let’s not use the blanket term “Africa”. “Yes, I know” he said, “but does it snow?”.

The answer is “yes, it does”. In fact there are even a few small ski resorts in Morocco, courtesy of the Atlas Mountains. Tunisia and Algeria got snow-laden a few years ago during a particularly cold winter. Snow even fell in the Sahara desert in 1979, but it lasted just half an hour.

A Youtube video  is reported to show an on ground example of snow in Setif Algeria but the date is not given. Another Youtude video is from Didouche Murad, Algeria.

Even more interesting is a BBC story on January 27 2005 titled

Blizzards paralyse Algerian city

where the story starts with

The worst snowfalls in more than 50 years have paralysed Algeria’s capital, Algiers, and more than a third of the country, the authorities say

Thus the snow this past week is not unprecentented, but is unuusal.  However, these extreme events are worth examing in detail to assess the variability and the presence (if any) of multi-decadal trends of these north Africa snowfall events.

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