Did it Snow in Saudi Arabia for the First Time in 100 Years?
This claim made the rounds on Twitter and social media platforms in late February, accompanied by a video of camels sitting on sand blanketed in snow “enjoying the snowfall.” The original tweet was captioned, “Global Warming strikes again, first snow in Saudi Arabia in 100 years.”
Is it really snowing in Saudi Arabia for the first time in 100 years?
While it is easy to assume that it does not snow in the desert, this is not the case. Saudi Arabia is a large country with a varied terrain, and certain regions have temperatures which can drop to -12.0°C at night. Snow can form if temperatures are low enough and there is enough moisture in the air. Given the higher altitude of regions like Tabuk (where, according to the orginal video poster, this video was taken) snowfall is certainly not an impossibility.
However, although the video does depict snowfall in Saudi Arabia, it was first published 2 years ago in 2021. A reverse image shows that the video was first shared in a tweet on 18th February 2021 by a user who regularly posts weather and nature updates based on Saudi Arabia. Older articles from that time can be found which reference the video. Going back further on Youtube, a video from 2020 and one from 2015 also cover the occurrence of snow in the region. Therefore, the suggestion that it depicts recent snowfall in 2023 is completely incorrect.
The statistic of “first time in 100 years” likely comes from 2013, when the Middle East cold snap saw winter storms impacting entire region including Jordon, Syria, Egypt, and parts of Saudi Arabia. News reports at the time often used “first time in 100 years” or “first time in over 100 years” when describing snow in Cairo. However, we found no well-supported accounts of this being the case for Saudi Arabia specifically in 2013. Our research suggests that until 2013, snow was a semi-regular occurrence in certain regions, with snowfall reported more regularly since then – including a snowstorm last January in the Badr desert area which rarely sees snow. As reported by AFP Factcheck, accounts of snowfall have consistent appeared – between 2013 to 2014, 2016 to 2017, 2021, and 2022.
Therefore, the entire claim that there has been recent snowfall in Saudi Arabia for the first time in 100 years is false.
The use of misinformation to feed into discourse about climate change can have a snowball effect. The original tweet was viewed over 4 million times, and while multiple users have responded to the tweet with corrections, we have also observed other commentors sharing the tweet as accurate information. The author of the original tweet, who is a climate change skeptic, states that their use of the phrase “global warming strikes again” is a parody of “the media” blaming global warming for all freak weather events. However, as the entire premise of the tweet is inaccurate, it has instead produced confusion and misunderstanding.