Rare Middle Eastern snow seen from space

Rare Middle Eastern snow seen from space

A rare winter storm  dropped snow across much of the Middle East between December 10 and 13, 2013. The storm was named Alexa and it was the worst snow storm that hit the Middle East since 1953. It brought snow, rain and freezing temperatures to large swaths of Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian territories.

Egyptian capital Cairo experienced its first snow in last 112 years and the bad weather took a disproportionate toll on the 2.2 million refugees living outside Syria and the 6.5 million people displaced within the country.

The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite acquired this image of the snow on December 15 after the clouds cleared. For the most part, the snow is confined to higher elevations in Syria, Egypt, Lebanon, Israel and the West Bank, and Jordan. Some lower-elevation desert regions in Syria are also snowy.

Image credit: NASA / Terra MODIS

Snow storms in the Middle East are not frequent but not uncommon either. However, this one was unusually early in the winter and more intense than normal. The storm paralyzed Jerusalem with 30 to 50 centimeters (12 to 20 inches) of snow, knocking out power for roughly 15 000 households. The snow closed mountain roads leading into the city, effectively cutting Jerusalem off. Amman, Jordan, received about 45 cm (18 inches) of snow, and Lebanon and Syria also were unusually cold and snowy.

Lower elevations near the coast received torrential rain during the storm, resulting in flooding. Some 40 000 people were forced to evacuate flooded areas in Gaza, according to the Associated Press. The floods are not visible at this scale, but tan and green plumes of sediment are visible along the Mediterranean Sea coast. Such plumes can be caused by floods and run off, though stormy, turbid waters may also bring sediment to the surface (EO).

Featured image courtesy EOSDIS Worldview at NASA GSFC


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