What is Orange Snow? Unusual Phenomenon Transforms Eastern Europe’s Snow-Clad Mountains

People in Russia, Bulgaria, Romania and other Eastern European countries are baffled at the sight of what appears to be orange-tinted snow. 

Pictures of the snow have been going viral on social media including from skiers at a resort near Sochi, a city in Krasnodar Krai, Russia, located on the Black Sea coast. 

According to meteorologists, the bizarre sight is reportedly a result of sand and dust stirred up and carried into the atmosphere from storms in North Africa, before they got deposited in the region. 

Steven Keates, of the Met Office, the United Kingdom’s national weather service spoke to the Independent about the same and said, “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. 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. When it rains or snows, it drags down whatever is up there, if there is sand in the atmosphere.”

Interestingly, this is not the first time that a phenomenon like the orange snow has occurred. 

The sun and sky over the U.K. in 2017 turned red as a result of Hurricane Ophelia dragging tropical air and dust from the Sahara. 

Orange snow hits parts of Eastern Europe In this photo, workers remove snow from a railway switch point close to the North Station in Bucharest on Feb. 27, 2018. Photo: Getty Images / Daniel Mihailescu

In February 2007, residents of several Siberian towns also experienced the orange snow. The people from the town reported snow that was malodorous and oily to the touch. It was also reported to contain four times the normal level of iron. 

It was assumed that the orange snow was caused by a heavy sandstorm that happened in neighboring Kazakhstan. When tests were carried out on the snow, it was revealed that it contained various sand and clay dust particles after which Russian officials had warned all the residents to not touch the snow or feed it to their animals. 

“At the present moment, we cannot give explanations for the snow, which is oily to the touch and has a pronounced rotten smell. We are waiting for the results of a thorough test on samples,” Omsk’s environmental prosecutor, Anton German had said. 

Russian scientists had a difficult time to figure out what had caused the orange snow then as the region was home to a lot of polluting industries such as the nuclear plant in Mayak or the metallurgy and chemicals factory in Ust-Kamenogorsk. The region was also close to Kazakhstan, an area used by the Soviet Union to conduct its nuclear tests. The Russian scientists also had doubts if the orange snow was caused by fuel from the space rockets launched in Kazakhstan. 

A​ more recent event occurred in January 2018 when residents of a town in central Kazakhstan witnessed black snow because of air pollution from the iron and steel industry. 

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