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Snowbound in. . . Africa?

By By Jim Andrews, senior meteorologist
February 25, 2012, 1:40:24 AM EST

The severe winter cold and snow that killed hundreds of people while disrupting the lives of millions in Europe over three weeks also left a heavy mark on residents of neighboring northern Africa.

Hardest hit in Africa was the eastern Atlas Mountain region of northeastern Algeria into northwestern Tunisia, where snow has piled up by the foot, multiple news outlets have said.

Deep snow reportedly isolated villages, forcing authorities to airdrop supplies to the snowbound residents.

The embedded video shows a rugged landscape smothered in snow in Jijel, a district that reaches from Mediterranean beaches to 4,000-foot mountain tops.

It was the first range of hills above the Mediterranean Sea, such as those in Jijel, that likely caught the worst of the snow as heavy storm clouds blew in from Europe.

The combination of a massive arctic outbreak pouring out of Europe and added Mediterranean moisture uplifted and wrung out over the Atlas Mountains bred the extreme snowfalls.

Unlike the vast Sahara whose desert climate dominates northern Africa, the Atlas Mountain region of Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco shares a moderate, adequately watered "Mediterranean" climate.

The bulk of yearly precipitation falls during the winter, as it does elsewhere in the Mediterranean basin. Winter snow is common over higher slopes of the Atlas, but rarely does it reach the depths seen in 2012.

Video credit: MrAnisjsk/YouTube

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