Skip to content

Is desert snow real? The truth about the weather in the deserts

    Desert and snow are not two words that we would ordinarily expect to see together, so you might be wondering what is this mystical, law-defying desert snow and how does it work? If so, you have come to the right place! Keep reading to learn all about desert snow and what it is…

    Is Desert Snow Real?

    When we picture deserts, the only thing that comes to mind is scorching sun waves or enormous sand dunes. But what if I tell you that desert snow does sometimes blanket the sand landscapes? Yes, it’s real!

    Although, the desert’s arid climate and moisture-thirsty atmosphere make the desert snow concept a bit unbelievable. But, few factors make snowfall happen in deserts.  For instance, the world’s largest hot desert Sahara, got covered with a freezing breeze and icy sprinkles when the temperature reduced all the way to -2C on 13 January 2021.

    Are you excited to know how it actually happened? And how many places got to experience exceptional desert snow? Explore the article below to get all your answers and buckle up to feel the shivers of the cold desert breeze.

    Desert Snow is Not Illusory – Causes of this Rare Occurrence

    Desert snow is not happening out of nowhere; there are some significant, sometimes worrisome reasons behind everything. Explore the main causes of recurring Occurrences of this unusual phenomenon 

    1. Changes in Climate

    Is desert snow real? The truth about the weather in the deserts

    Although each year brings its season and bounties, for deserts, it’s rather different. Deserts are mostly depicted as having a hot and dry atmosphere, with a vast area of warm dunes. Thus, the idea of finding desert snow can be quite unusual.

    However, it’s a reality, and climate is to be thanked most. Some of the latest variations in climate that are generating desert snow are as follows:

    • The recent increase in the emission of greenhouse gasses has been turning tables to change the climatic patterns of various places.
    • The high speed of air currents in the upper atmosphere called jet streams has contributed well. Its distinctive movements can push cold air masses to penetrate regions, such as deserts, where experiencing cold air is rare.
    • Arctic amplification and ocean temperatures can also be regarded as the cause of desert snow. Disturbances in the patterns of winds at the polar vortex and in the ocean’s temperature lead to winds circulating towards other regions and impact precipitation enough to affect weather patterns.

    2. Production of a Sand Storm and transportation of Sand Particles

    As most are aware, sandstorms are a usual phenomenon for the desert’s arid conditions. In between the lines, the sand particles into the atmosphere through heavy winds are transported to the regions with colder and quicker air movements.

    However, the moisture in warm places also gets involved with these cold air currents. In return, the sand particles start transforming into crystals and snowflakes, leading to cloud formation and desert snow.

    3. Desert Types and Elevated Surfaces

    There are several types of deserts, and one of them is polar deserts which are located in the polar or “distant from the sun” region. These deserts are coated with snow the whole year but are included in the desert family because of their dry and low precipitation of less than 10 inches per year.

    Moreover, some deserts are located on higher surfaces of Earth, which means that those deserts are naturally cooler than other deserts. These deserts have cooler temperatures than lower-surfaced deserts, which increases the probability of desert snow, especially in winter.

    Deserts around the World that have Experienced Snow 

    Is desert snow real? The truth about the weather in the deserts

    Dive in and learn about all the deserts that either have been covered in snow for a long time or started to delight in mists of snow more recently:

    1. Sahara has Experienced Desert Snow Six Times

    This is one of the most astonishing facts about deserts!

    You must be wondering why the Sahara, the hottest desert on Earth, is leading this list. Well, it’s truly astonishing that even one of the hottest places on earth has had desert snow, not only once but five times now!

    Sahara desert has enormous unique features such as melodious sandscapes, orange sunsets and starry, clear blue nights etc., which has always piqued the interest of travelers. But over time, the recurring snowfalls have added a stark aura to the golden landscape of the desert.

    With 9,200,000 square kilometres of large sand dunes, mountains in the African continent and the highest temperature of 58°C, most people associate the Sahara as being a hot desert. But in 1979, 2016, 2018, 2021 and then 2022, the desert snow shared the attention of eyeballs around the world.

    The southwestern province of Algeria has a gateway to the Sahara called Ain Sefra, which experienced desert snow in January 2022. That was the fifth snowfall in 42 years, and the unbelievable patterns across the sand were a memorable site for every eye.

    However, it wasn’t the first time Ain Sefra had desert snow in all of those mentioned years, profoundly because of the Atlas mountains sealing the town and dropping temperatures several times. Additionally, Saudi Arabia also got capped by snow in these years and experienced weather alterations to Northwestern areas, producing paint-worthy scenes.

    2. The Orange Sand of the Atacama Desert Hid under 32 inches of Snow 

    The Atacama desert is one of those places where you might feel like you haven’t tasted or felt moisture for days. Yes! It is one the driest places on the globe besides polar deserts, but it experienced desert snow in 2011. The white cast of South America’s Atacama desert felt like sugar powder on the orange sand and boundless mountains. 

    Besides having dry-as-bone weather, the cold air rising from the nearby Pacific Ocean makes the nights of the Atacama desert drop to around 0°C. However, the arid ground of 700 miles blooms with purple hues and yellow highlights on mountains despite having no rain and the northern Chile region welcomed desert snow.

    3. Antarctica is a Desert too

    Is desert snow real? The truth about the weather in the deserts

    Yes, you read the header right! The ever-renowned region draped with ice sheets is a desert underneath. Antarctica is that frozen continent that has kept a mysterious landscape beneath the ice.

    Although Antarctica has a tapestry of fresh water within 90% of ice sheets, studies claim melting those sheets can raise sea levels by 16 inches globally. There are more surprises; under all the frozen blankets, there is the world’s biggest mountain range, the Gamburtsev range and a freshwater Lake Vostok trapped under 4 km of ice sheets.

    Honestly speaking, living in Antarctica is no more difficult than living in any desert, proving the reality of desert snow and its harshness at the same time. Meanwhile, experiencing the beauty of 510,000 square kilometres of the Ross ice shelf, mountains, and lakes adorned with snowy garments is worth experiencing.

    4. Taklimakan Desert Received Rare Blue Snow in 2023

    All your perception about the desert turns real here; No water, no moisture, sand dunes and just shackles of dryness. But something unexpected happened here, too – Taklimakan got a thin layer of desert snow of about 1.5 inches in 2008.

    Taklimakan desert is the second largest desert in the world and sits just beside the Silk Road of China and the rain shadow region of the Himalayas. However, the desert has no cues of water and blazingly dry weather with an average temperature of 40°C.

    Moreover, these winds often lead to the shifting of sand dunes reaching up to 300 meters in height and create aesthetic views of dancing sand particles. This sand shifting elicits sand clouds covering the Taklimakan sky between two mountain ranges.

    The second snowfall recorded in January 2023 worked as a silver weaving of beautiful scenery which looked blue covering over red sand in infrared pictures.

    5. The Sonoran Desert had a Drizzle of Snow of about 10 Centimeters

    Is desert snow real? The truth about the weather in the deserts

    Only for a few hours, but the Sonoran desert also broke the implausible view of desert snow. The Sonoran desert is North America’s hottest desert, expanded for 100,000 square miles across Baja, California, and the US states of Arizona, also got to enjoy 2 to 4 inches of snow drizzles in March 2023.

    This desert’s subtropical climate allows 3 to 15 inches of rainfall yearly during monsoon months. However, the region near the Colorado River does have summer waves that direct the temperature to a whooping 49°C.

    But the northern winds and rainfall contribute to the breeding of 530+ animals and 2000+ plant species, including the tallest desert tree, Desert Ironwood.

    The same factor resulted in desert snow as well. This event also includes the contribution of La Nina, which occurred due to the temperature variations in the Pacific Ocean, which explains the phenomenological changes in climate and oceans.

    6. Vivid Views of Snow and Hail Storms Fantasise Tourists in the Arabian Desert

    The Arabian Desert, as the name prevails, being a part of Saudi Arabia, relished historical desert snow and a hailstorm in 2022. However, the Arabian Desert also suffers from scorching hot temperatures of up to 55°C, but some areas are elevated and get rainfall of around 4 inches every year.

    Like other deserts in the list, the chilling nights and foggy skies are part of the Arabian Desert, which reminds me of stories such as Alibaba, and Aladdin, featuring starry nights and sand breezes.

    To add to the beauty, the sand of the desert has light hues of red that make desert snow look like cream on red velvet cake, making it extremely eye-catcher for viewers.

    Moreover, the Arabian Desert, the fifth largest desert, is connected with the Syrian desert, which also introduces mountain ranges, the Arabian Sea and the Red Sea.

    7. Arizona Desert Turns into Winter Wonderland Every Year with more than 100 Inches of Snowfall

    It might sound unbelievable, but the Arizona desert gets spectacular snowfall yearly! Imagine saguaro cacti, and the juxtaposition of prickly cacti gets an icy attire of transparent snowflakes – seems like a dream, but 20 Native American tribes get to view this intriguing view.

    The Arizona desert is located at an elevated ground with an elevation of 7000 feet (2134 meters) which makes it favourable to get veiled with desert Snow. Moreover, the desert gets about 100 inches of snow annually, covering the whole landscape and snow dropped in 277 miles long Grand Canyon that doesn’t let anyone blink their eyes.

    However, Arizona experiences the hottest weather in summer, with temperatures as high as 50 degrees Celsius. But, with its subtropical climate, the desert does experience rain as well as enormous amounts of snow across its 300 000 sq/km area.

    Additionally, the natural hot springs and start nights due to low light pollution turn desert snow in Arizona into an epitome of serene tapestry.

    Is desert snow real? The truth about the weather in the deserts

    8. The Frozen Waterfall in the Gobi Desert is the Finest Proof of Desert Snow

    If you want to know which desert has the most freezing weather and common occurrence of desert snow worldwide, then count the Gobi Desert. The Gobi desert is spread all along the parts of Northern China and Southern Magnolia and takes pride in being one of the largest deserts in the world with 1.3 million square kilometres area.

    The amazement doesn’t end here; the Gobi desert has some extreme temperature juggling between both seasons, up to 42°C in summers and -32° C in winters.

    Surprisingly, the Gobi desert is not a flat sandland as presumed about deserts; 95% of the desert is mountains, blooming valleys, lakes, rivers, dunes, mud cliffs of fossils and waterfalls etc.

    Besides, the Gobi desert has a captivating landscape of vegetation, wildlife, red-orange stones and sparkling ecosystems due to its diverse weather patterns. The reason includes 194 millimetres of rain annually and occasionally frosty desert snow on dunes, thanks to its location on a plateau 1500m above sea level.

    Wrapping Up 

    By now, you must have prepared to visit any of these deserts; that is how exciting desert snow is! Reading through the whole article, one can conclude that the misconceptions about the unwavering hot sun burning the dunes have gone down the drain. 

    On the flip side, the reality of desert weather lies in dryness and lack of moisture, which also gave Antarctica an identity of desert.

    However, whether it is +40°C or -20°C, the deserts are bestowed with unparalleled vibes of serenity and escape, whereas the desert snow adds the element of mystique. 

    Did you love reading this article? Want to read more similar content and enjoy thrilling insights? Go through these articles and unlock exciting facts about the places around the world: