Sahara Sees Rare Snow
Saharan sand dunes have been coated in a rare dusting of snow this week, and temperatures have plunged to -2C (28.4F) near the town of Ain Sefra, located in northeast Algeria.
This section of the Sahara has witnessed snow before, due to it being surrounded by the Atlas Mountains, but only on a handful of occasions — just five times in the last 43 years, in fact: in 1979, 2016, 2018, 2021 and now 2022.
The flakes created stunning patterns in the sand, as captured by local photographer Karim Bouchetata:
Bouchetata also took pictures of the Sahara snow in January last year, when sheep and camels were seen standing on the snowy dunes as temperatures dipped to -3C (26.6F).
Back in 2016, during the first Sahara snow for 37 years, enough settled to allow children to build snowmen and even sledged down the dunes. Two years later, the desert was blanketed by a whopping 18 inches after a freak winter storm hit. The flakes made a return in 2021. And then again this year, too.
Low solar activity is causing weather patterns to shift (via the weakening of the jet streams, among other mechanisms). And northern Africa is seeing this first hand. There is a greening underway across the region as more moisture is ‘funneled in’ — the return of winter snow in recent years is evidence of this.
Thousands Stranded On Turkish Highways
Turkey has been wrapped by blizzards this week, with weather woes reported across the majority of the country’s 81 provinces. The Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency (AFAD) said 722 roads to towns and villages in Bolu, Gaziantep, Kahramanmaraş, Artvin and Bingöl have been closed– but the situation hasn’t been much better in the cities…
Thousands of vehicles were stranded on a key highway connecting Turkey’s southern provinces as heavy snowfall swept in Tuesday and Wednesday. In total, some 4,580 people on the Tarsus-Adana-Gaziantep Motorway (TAG) had to be evacuated in bitterly cold conditions. Around 186 of those were in need of medical care, and so were promptly taken to nearby hospitals.
Clearing crews distributed food to an additional 7,000 people on the highway.
Social media was soon flooded with photos and videos, and of people requesting help.
Temperatures in Gaziantep dipped to -3C (26.6F) early Wednesday morning, and snow totals in the city center reached a record-breaking 50+cm (19.7+ inches).
With the roads jammed in and around the city, thousands of people were forced to abandon their cars and walk to safety:
Mercifully, the snow in Gaziantep ceased on Wednesday, but roads and streets were still blanketed in powder and caked in ice, and the power was out in many neighborhoods.
To help, the Turkish military dispatched helicopters to some sections of the highway, delivering food and fuel to the stranded motorists that remained. Tow trucks were also sent by the army to assist in freeing stuck vehicles.
In total, 161 bulldozers, snow plows and other heavy duty equipment were sent to clear the road.
Heavy snow also left hundreds of vehicles stranded on the Akseki-Seydişehir highway, which connects the Mediterranean province of Antalya to the central province of Konya — and as in Gaziantep, crews were delivering food to stranded motorists.
This is the story across the majority of Turkey this week (see below videos) where unprecedented snow continues to disrupt life, including forcing school closures in 52 (of 81) provinces on Wednesday.
Turkish State Meteorology Services (TSMS) warned that exceptional snowfall will persist for many through the remainder of the week. As will the cold — a low of -39.7C (-39.5F) were logged in the village of Bezirhane, Caldiran district, Van Province on Jan 18, which is exceptionally cold, especially for Turkey:
Record Cold Grip The Middle East
To Turkey’s east, record cold has been gripping a number of countries, including Lebanon, Iraq, Iran, Syria, Israel and Jordon.
In the Lebanese mountains, lows touched -27C.
In Erbil, northern Iraq, historically low readings of -15C have been reported (as has heavy snow–see below tweet); while in the Iraq’s lower elevations, a reading of –4.7C has been noted in Kirkuk, and a rare -2C in Baghdad.
Extreme lows of around -23C have been reported in the Iranian mountains; and a low of –27.4C in Saqqez, Kurdistan province–where people are reportedly suffering life-threatening conditions.
In Damask, Syria, -8C was observed on Jan 18 — an incredible feat.
Beer Sheva, Israel is also reporting rare frosts, and the country has just hit a record demand for power.
While in Jordan, according to the below tweet, record low temps have been suffered, with Safawi -for example- dropping to -5C.
Mountains along the eastern Mediterranean coast have been hit by severe blizzards in recent days.
And finally, looking further east, Turaif in Saudi Arabia reported an anomalous -6C; with Makkah, also in Saudi Arabia, registering a very low daily maximum of just 24C.
Forecasts suggest the Middle East’s anomalously-wintry conditions could persist until the end of February.
Below is a look at the region’s temperature anomalies for Feb 1:
Record Snow To Continue In U.S.
Following the record snowfall over the past week, much of the U.S. is set to be clattered by another Arctic blast with snow and ice forecast for huge swathes of the country.
Another large winter storm is set to sweep up from the Southeast through parts of the Midwest and East Coast, according to The Weather Channel. In response, the National Weather Service has issued winter storm watches covering many states, including New York, New Jersey, Virginia, and Texas.
Most winter storm warnings begin Thursday morning or afternoon. And they come just days after winter storm Izzy dropped a foot or more of snow in several northern states after also slamming the Southeast.
Below are the latest GFS runs.
They show anomalous cold gripping much of the CONUS through Thursday, with readings easily dipping as much as 16-20C below the seasonal average:
The snow, as mentioned above, will also be noteworthy, and not only for the east — the west will also cop another sizable dusting, adding to the record monthly accumulations registered in December.
All this snow is also adding to Northern Hemisphere’s Total Snow Mass, which, as of the latest data point (Jan 18), is tracking some 400+ Gigatons above the 1982-2012 average:
Hunga Tonga Eruption Revised Up To 39km (128,000ft)
And finally, Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai’s eruption of Jan 15 has been revised up, all-but confirming it as a VEI 5.
Based on preliminary satellite data from global weather radars, the estimated height of the eruption column reached an altitude of 39km (128,000 ft), which, if confirmed, would make it the highest eruption in modern times.
Such a stratospheric injection of particulates is expected to cool the planet by around 0.3C, lasting a period of 12-18 months.
Latest Himawari-8 satellite imagery of SO2 concentrations in the atmosphere reveal that the aerosol plume is now extending over the Indian Ocean, advancing towards eastern Africa:
It will still be weeks before the final rating of the eruption is in, but a mid-range VEI 5 designation is highly probable.
This would make Hunga Tonga’s explosion one of the largest since Mount Tambora’s VEI 7 back in 1815, which resulted in ‘The Year Without A Summer’ during the Dalton Minimum (1790-1830). It would also rank it just behind Pinatubo’s large VEI 5 blast of 1991, which is thought to have cooled the planet by approx. 0.5 to 0.6C.
Stay tuned for updates on Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai — the data is still coming in.
One way or another, the COLD TIMES are returning, the mid-latitudes are REFREEZING–likely in line with historically low solar activity, cloud-nucleating Cosmic Rays, and a meridional jet stream flow (among many other forcings, including the impending release of the Beaufort Gyre).
Prepare accordingly — learn the facts, relocate if need be and grow your own.
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