Bizarre Snow Phenomenon Leaves Europe Looking Like Mars


Katy Evans

Katy is Managing Editor at IFLScience where she oversees editorial content from News articles to Features, and even occasionally writes some.

Managing Editor


Sochi ski resort in Russia or Mars dune? Margarita Alshina/Instagram

It’s 2018, and we’re no strangers to bizarre-looking weather phenomena. Niagra Falls has been known to partially freeze over and snow in the Sahara is increasingly common. Now, we have orange snow.

Mountainous regions across Eastern Europe were covered in the orange stuff this weekend, with many skiers and snowboarders at resorts posting pictures to social media that look vaguely apocalyptic. Sort of like skiing on Mars.


The unusual scenes were reported across Russia, Ukraine, Bulgaria, and Romania with mountain ranges looking more like sand dunes on the Red Planet than snow in Eastern Europe.


So what is happening?

It’s actually sand from the Sahara that is giving the snow its otherworldly look. According to meteorologists, it’s rare but not unheard of, occurring every five years or so.

Sand, dust, and pollen particles are picked up by storms that swirl across northern Africa to Europe where they mix with the rain in the atmosphere, falling as orange-tinted snow thanks to the Sahara’s red sand.   


“Looking at satellite imagery from NASA, it shows a lot of sand and dust in the atmosphere drifting across the Mediterranean,” Steven Keates, a representative from the UK’s Met Office, told the Independent.  

“When it rains or snows, it drags down whatever is up there, if there is sand in the atmosphere.”

It’s not the first time an event like this has happened. In October last year, Storm Ophelia picked up sand from the Sahara, mixing it with debris from the forest fires raging across Spain and Portugal and deposited it into the atmosphere, causing the sky across the UK and other parts of Europe to give off an apocalyptic-looking red hue.

Mainly, though, all this is an Instagrammer's dream as the pictures don’t need any filters to make them look retro, sepia, brighter than they really are, or frankly, out of this world.

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  • europe,

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  • sahara,

  • orange