snow sahara desert january 2021
© Bav Media/Karim Bouchetata
Extraordinary photographs show snowy scenes in the Sahara Desert, with temperatures plummeting below zero.
Blankets of snow could be seen covering an area close to the desert town of Ain Sefra in Algeria, on Wednesday, January 13, as temperatures fell to -3°C. Surrounded by the Atlas Mountains, Ain Sefra is located an approximate 1,000 metres above sea level.

The unexpected scenes were captured by photographer Karim Bouchetata, whose striking photographs captured the snowfall settling on the famously dry sand dunes.

As per Desert USA, the Sahara is known to have one of the most severe climates on Earth, with very little rainfall, powerful winds and wide temperature ranges.

Although colder temperatures can indeed be recorded in the various regions of the desert, where it can be cold at night, the low levels of moisture mean that snow is a pretty unusual occurence.

However, this isn't the first time in recent years that the residents of Ain Sefra have seen snowfall, with up to 16 inches inches of snow reported in the area back in January 2018.

As reported by Forbes at the time, this rare event had occurred just three times in the previous 37 years, with the past two years having seen snow (1979, 2016 and 2017).

Known as 'the gateway to the desert', Ain Sefra sees average highs of 99.7°F during the month of July, with the last surprise snowfall seeing residents struggle to manage snow on the roads.


The region of northern and western Africa covered by the Sahara Desert covers has seen fluctuations in temperature and rainfall throughout history.

Although currently dry and arid, this hasn't always been the case, with research showing that northern Africa was once humid and fertile, featuring large lakes, vegetation, animals and human settlements.

In 15,000 years or so, it's thought the Sahara desert will become lush and green once again, with the Sahara, and North Africa generally, having swung between wet and dry climates every 20,000 years due to changes to Earth's axis as our planet orbits the sun.

The Sahara isn't the only place where the weather has taken an unexpected turn in recent weeks. As reported by Geo News, snowfall in the Aseer region of Saudi Arabia has seen mountains and deserts blanketed with snow, 'with locals and foreigners alike flocking to the plains to witness the spectacle'.

It has reportedly been half a century since temperatures in the Aseer region dropped below freezing, and many locals have expressed understandable excitement at the surreal yet beautiful sight.