Up to 16 inches of snow has fallen on an town in the Sahara desert after a freak winter storm hit the area on Sunday, January 7, 2018.

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Snow covered sand dunes in the Sahara Desert in Algeria. Photo credit: Karim Bouchetata

 

This is the third time in 37 years that the town of Ain Sefra in Algeria has seen snow cover the red sand dunes of the desert.

 

Snow started falling in the early hours of Sunday morning and it quickly began settling on the sand.

 

While the town saw an inch or two, the sand dunes on its outskirts were covered in snow.

 

Photographer Karim Bouchetata said: “We were really surprised when we woke up to see snow again. It stayed all day on Sunday and began melting at around 5pm.”

 

In 2016, the town known as “The Gateway to the Desert” saw deep snow shortly after Christmas and it caused chaos, with passengers stranded on buses after the roads became slippery and icy.

 

Come January 2017, the town saw snowfall yet again, and  children made snowmen and even sledged on the sand dunes.

 

Before that, snow was last seen in Ain Sefra on February 18, 1979, when the snow storm lasted just half an hour.

 

A spokesman for the Met Office said on Monday morning: “Cold air was pulled down south in to North Africa over the weekend as a result of high pressure over Europe.

 

“The high pressure meant the cold weather extended further south than normal.”

 

Ain Sefra is located around 3,280ft above sea level and surrounded by the Atlas Mountains.

 

Despite its altitude, it is extremely rare to see snow in the town, and it is normally six to 12 degrees Celsius in January.

 

The Sahara Desert covers most of Northern Africa and it has gone through shifts in temperature and moisture over the past few hundred thousand years.