Skiiers in Eastern Europe were treated to eerie Mars-like slopes over the weekend. Mountains and ski resorts in Russia, Ukraine, Bulgaria, and Romania were coated with a mysterious dirty orange snow.
The specifics of how this happened aren't entirely clear. However, many suggest the snow, which varied between yellow, orange, and brown, was the result of sand and pollen. The dirty snow was likely the result of storms in North Africa carrying sand at high altitudes.
"There has been a lot of lifted sand or dust originating from North Africa and the Sahara, from sandstorms which have formed in the desert," Steven Keates of the Met Office told the Independent. "As the sand gets lifted to the upper levels of the atmosphere, it gets distributed elsewhere. Looking at satellite imagery from NASA, it shows a lot of sand and dust in the atmosphere drifting across the Mediterranean."
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Posts from travelers on social media indicated that the snow was gritty and they weren't able to ski the slopes. No one specifically addressed the issue, but it's probably safe to assume the snow wasn't creamsicle-flavored.
The BBC reports this phenomenon occurs about once every five years, but the concentration of sand is higher than usual this year. The storms also caused an orange haze in Crete over the weekend.
Similar incidents have been recorded in the past. In 2007, an oily orange snow fell over Siberia. Last year, Hurricane Ophelia turned the sun and sky red over parts of the UK.
The Independent highlighted conflicting theories about the cause of the snow, noting local officials said a storm in Kazakhstan kicked up dust and clay and caused the discolored snow. Meanwhile, a Russia environmental watchdog suggested it was the result of pollution because the snow contains elevated levels of iron, acids, and nitrates.
No matter the cause, people who witnessed it -- including many vacationing at the former Olympic slopes in Sochi, Russia -- began posting to social media, saying the slopes looked like sand dunes, an arriving apocalypse, or the surface of Mars.
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