NASA sees that stunning Sahara snowfall from space


The Sahara Desert in Africa is known for its size, baking heat and sculptural sand dunes. It’s not known for its skiing. 

A rare snowfall during the week won’t turn the Sahara into a winter sports destination, but it did leave us with some spectacular ground-level photos of the sand dusted with powdered-sugar snow. Both NASA and the European Space Agency have now released satellite images showing the wild view from space.

The Copernicus Sentinel-2 satellite caught this view of the snowy Sahara desert.


ESA

On Friday, the ESA posted a look at northwest Algeria as seen by the Copernicus Sentinel-2 satellite. The satellite captured the image on Jan. 8. “Most of the snow had melted by the end of the next day, but luckily the Sentinel-2A satellite happened to be in the right place at the right time to record this rare event from space,” says the ESA.

NASA also shared several images using data from its Landsat 8 satellite. 

This straight-down look from the Landsat 8 satellite shows snow dusting the dunes in the Sahara.


NASA/USGS

For a unique perspective on the snowfall, check out a visualization created by NASA’s Joshua Stevens. He took Landsat 8 imagery and placed it over a topographic model of the area, giving us a view that makes the elevation changes really pop out:

This visualization drapes the Landsat 8 image over a sideways look at the Sahara landscape.


NASA/Joshua Stevens/USGS/SRTM

This is the second time over the past few years we’ve seen snow on the Sahara. NASA also caught sight of a scenic snowfall in late 2016. Before that, it had been decades since the last snow storm scattered white on the desert. It will be interesting to see if this icy trend keeps up.



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