What Causes Eastern Europe's Orange Snow?

Eastern Europe experienced orange snowfall in March 2018.
Eastern Europe experienced orange snowfall in March 2018.

In March 2018, something strange happened in Eastern Europe. Pictures of orange snow were making rounds on the internet that attracted a lot of interest from a lot of people. Some even went to the extent of saying they were skiing on Mars! This phenomenon mainly affected mountains of Russia, Moldova, Romania, Ukraine, and Bulgaria making their snow have a rose gold color. This baffling event, however, turns out it is not strange as we think. Scientists say that it occurs once every five years and it is entirely natural. Well, that relieves a lot of curious people around the world but still does not answer the question: what causes the orange snow?

What Causes the Orange Snow?

According to scientists, this is a regular event that takes place every five years caused by sand blown by strong winds from the Sahara or/and North Africa. This is as a result of sandstorms that form in the desert. The storms lift the sand into the atmosphere’s upper levels, and after that, the sand is dispersed to different areas depending on the direction of the wind. While in the atmosphere, the sand from Africa then gets mixed up with rain and snow and when it rains or snows, the sand particles descend together with it, therefore, giving the snow its orange color.

Days before the orange snow started to fall; there was a lot of sand carried from the Sahara by winds and made its way to Crete, Greece through the Mediterranean Sea all the way to Turkey. The sand limited visibility and is said to be one of the most substantial amounts of sand blown by the wind to Greece which acts as evidence to reports that of late there has been an increasing amount of sand lifted from the Sahara and North Africa. Many people have also been complaining that they have been picking up sand in their mouths. The dust from Sahara can travel very far, and it once reached over 4,000 miles. It made its way to the Atlantic Ocean and even reached the Texas Gulf Coast two years ago.

Has It Ever Happened Before?

As aforementioned, the event is entirely ordinary happening once in every five years. Another similar event seems to have taken place in Siberia (January 31st, 2007). In Siberia, orange snow fell on a region of 1,500 km2. The cause of the orange snow was however unclear with some citing effects of pollution in Kazakhstan. Others speculated that it was the effect of a rocket launch or a nuclear accident. The snow was found to be non-toxic but contained high levels of iron and felt oily with a foul smell. In Russia, there has also been many instances of green, red, black, and blue snow.

As a recent as 2017, the United Kingdom experienced a red sky courtesy of dust and air originating from the Sahara. This was caused by Hurricane Ophelia which brought tropical air from Africa.

It is reported that this phenomenon happens once every five years and deemed utterly natural but this year’s snow had high amounts of sand. This, however, is no cause for concern as it is not harmful: you will not grow an extra limb.


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