Snow fall in Sahara: the world’s largest desert


Snow fall in Sahara: the world’s largest desert

image from skynews

Sahara is located in Northern Africa, it occupies an area of 3,600,000 square miles. The Sahara is bothered in the west by the Atlantic ocean, in the north by the Alas Mountains and Mediterranean sea, in the east by the Red Sea, in the south by the Sahel. While northern Algerian town of Ain Sefra is known as the “gateway to the desert” that is located between the Atlas mountains and the northern edge of the Sahara. Centuries ago, Sahara was known to be a humid region with lush green land and a home to different species. It also has great support for lakes and human settlement. Findings show that, population started to decline when the change in climatic pattern dried up waterways from 10,000 to 4,700 years ago. Further stating that, Sahara supported much more humid weather and sustain lakes for aquatic animals during the time. Scientists have identified several former wetlands in the Sahara region that were active during the Africa Humid Period (AHP) that lasted from 14,600 years ago to 5,500 years ago. Research also revealed that around 12,000 years ago, change in monsoon patterns brought rain to the region. The increase in the rainfall led to the formation of waterways connected to Lake Chad in the south and the Nile River in the north. Scientists revealed that the Sahara environment began to dry out around 7,400 years ago. And 5,000 years ago, there was a complete shift in the climatic patterns of Sahara, and the monsoon rainfall decreased drastically.

The great transition

The African Humid Period to the desertification in the Sahara marks the great climate transition era.  The period of the “Green Sahara” is known as the AHP because of its humidity spread round other many African countries, setting the pace for fauna, flora and water bodies. It became an habitat for inhabitants. This same Sahara is now the world’s largest sub-tropical and hottest desert in the world due to the accommolative effects of climate change and the contribution of human activities over time. It is known for its hot arid climate that supports sand dunes and very few life forms such that rain doesn’t reach the ground or very small amount is received due to the dryness of the air. The Lake Chad is the remnant of a former in land sea, paleolake Mega Chad, which existed during the AHP. At its largest extent, sometimes before 5000BC, Lake Mega-Chad was the largest of four Saharan paleolakes. According to a research, the lake spanned an area larger than all of the great lakes combined. The lake Mega Chad is the biggest freshwater lake on Earth covering 139,000 square miles of Central Africa but has rapidly shrunk to a tiny fraction of its former size 1,000 years ago as found by some researchers.

How it unfolds     

In this century, the first snow in the Sahara was recorded in 1979, the second in December of 2016, the third in January, 2018 and the most recent recorded  was in January, 2021. In 1979, the snowstorm was severe enough to stop traffic but the other snow falls was just for some hours - just like some traces across the sand dunes. Sahara should be a very cold region that accommodates many habitat but now it has a population of 35,000. 

Another crisis point

Likewise the Sahel that stretches across Africa South of the Sahara, spanning 11 African countries is now a shadow of itself. It was a fertile land for all thereby accommodating millions of people. In past decades, in the 1960s - a great drought engulfed the Sahel and the most severe of all is the 2005, 2010 and 2012 drought emergency that left millions into food crises and displacement away from their livelihoods. The fact is that, the temperatures are rising 1.5 times faster than the global average, about million, people in the Sahel depend on livestock rearing for survival, 80% depend on agriculture yet 80% of their land are degraded with more than million people in the Sahel are classified as food insecure. Sahel is now a home of people that are largely disappropriated affected by climate change crises. In recent times, grazing of animals is becoming fast unsustainable due to the clashes between the crop farmers and cattle rearers - due to the prevailing environmental climatic instability.

The indispensable Lake Chad

Same as lake Chad, in recent decades it has shrunk by 90%. Lake Chad sits in the Sahel and borders; Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon. If the temperature keeps increasing at an increasing rate, in the nearest decade lake Chad will become a “dead lake” with visible features to be used to illustrate to the next generation that lake Chad once exist. Already it now known as “once” Africa’s largest lakes. The shrinking lake Chad is a signal to the world that climate change means business, that is why we need to quick the business as usual if we must safe humanity and the planet from destruction – we can no longer stay on the fence in making these decisions. As landscape degrades, it increase the tendencies of violence arising from the competition of natural resource. Since the landscape is expected to retain its original rather our landscape is deteriorating while population is increasing. This may mean more crises

How it should be:

It is worthy to note that, the snow falls in the Sahara are not out of place because that is how it should be from the onset down to this present moment if it was sustained. By its geographical location, Sahara should be the most humid region in Africa – that is the reason why it is the face of Africa. Naturally, it should be the homeland of several biodiversity and millions of people due to it vast fertile landscape that provide inextinguishable support for lives on earth. So it is not normal for Sahara to have turned into the desert we see today. The normal climate conditions we saw in the past is not the “normal” that it is today.

Actions are needed

All of these regions; Sahara, Sahel and Lake Chad are the hotspots of climate change which have been engulf with violence such as the rise of terrorist group due to the extensive ecosystem degradation. In recent times, the grazing of cattle is becoming unsustainable in the search for scare natural resource in these regions. This is a huge disruption on the part of the herders because it is there ancestry heritage at the same time the farmers need security for food security. Climate change has created an enabling environment for armed insurrection, weak governance and drought. Humanitarian crises in the Sahel is close to the tipping point in the sense that nowhere scares me than these regions. This may mean more crises. We must not reach the point of no return on this looming crises that is challenging the world systems. This call for climate governance at various levels through transparency and accountability in dealing with the defining issues of our time. Climate change is a pandemic that the world must pay attention to without any show of pretence because climate change knows no boundaries. The only vaccine is through our actions – individually and collectively. We need to act fast. Nature want to take its place and the signs are all written on the wall.

 Oladosu Adenike ([email protected]) is an ecofeminist, climate justice activist, ecoreporter and an advocate for the restoration of Lake Chad.

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