“That will happen when pigs fly” is an adynaton – a figure of speech used to describe something that’s impossible and will never happen. “When hell freezes over” is another good example. “When the Cubs win the World Series again” used to be an adynaton until this year. “When it snows in the Sahara” was another popular one that just moved over to the “no longer applicable” column when it snowed in that desert for only the second in the memories of those who keep track of such things. Perhaps we need a new term for failed adynatons … badynatons?
The Algerian town of Ain Sefra is known as the “Gateway to the Desert” (one of a number of cities that use this name to attract tourists – Zagora and Guelmim in Morocco are two others) for its close proximity to the Sahara – the largest hot desert in the world. How hot is hot? The average high temperature is 40 °C (104.0 °F) during the hottest month, the record hottest temperature ever was set on September 13, 1922, when it hit 58 °C (136 °F) in El Azizia, and the daytime temperature of the sand can reach 80 °C (176 °F). And yet …
Although the air is dry and evaporative to an extreme, in the winter strong polar fronts from the Mediterranean can occasionally produce rain, and, in this case, snow. It is not unusual for temperatures to dip below freezing in the winter.
Weather.com’s Kait Parker confirmed what photographer Karim Bouchetata took beautiful pictures of … snow on the ground in the Sahara on December 19th, 2016.
It looked amazing as the snow settled on the sand and made a great set of photos. The snow stayed for about a day and has now melted away.
While snow can be seen occasionally in the high altitudes of the desert, records show this is the first time snow fell on this low altitude town since February 18, 1979 – a date that will live in history as the day low altitude areas of the Sahara desert recorded their “first snowfall in living memory.”
There don’t seem to be any concrete, verifiable records of any other snowfalls in Ain Sefra or other low altitude areas of the Sahara, so “first snowfall in living memory” will have to suffice for now. Will it happen again? With climate change, anything is possible.
Is this second snow in the Sahara a sign of something bad about to happen? Well, in 1979 when it last snowed there, the Three Mile Island nuclear accident occurred in Pennsylvania, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini seized power in Iran and Saddam Hussein became president of Iraq.
Start watching for flying pigs.