Lesotho heavy snowfall
© NASA's Earth Observatory
The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite captured this image of the heavy snow that fell on Lesotho on July 27, 2016.
A winter storm dumped more snow on Lesotho, a high-altitude kingdom surrounded by South Africa, in late July than has been seen in any snow event since 1996.

According to Traveller 24 News, at least eight tourists were airlifted as a result of the storm and the deaths of several shepherds in the Joe Gqabi District Municipality were attributed to the heavy snow that fell on July 27.

Stefan Grab, a professor at the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa, told NASA's Earth Observatory it has been at least two decades since a storm of this magnitude hit the area, but noted that things are very different today because of how quickly the snow melts at altitudes above 5,900 feet and how infrequently the area receives any snow compared with years past.

News reports did not say how much snow fell in the country, but it was more than enough to cover the higher elevations.

"This particular snowfall was an extreme event, but it's only extreme in the context that we haven't had something like this in a long time," said Grab in the report. "In the first half of the 20th century, or certainly in the 19th century, these were very common."

According to the government's website, Lesotho is a high-altitude, hilly kingdom completely surrounded by South Africa. With typically short winters, Lesotho is comparable in size to Maryland and tends to have mild winters. In recent years, the kingdom has suffered a severe drought, which may be a contributing factor in the infrequency of heavier snowfalls.