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Rare photograph of snow in the usually baking hot Sonoran desert

SNOW in hot deserts tends to be an unusual sight, but this recent snap of the white-capped expanse of the Sonoran desert, which covers more than 250,000 square kilometres in the US and Mexico, is even rarer than most.

What makes the scene so special is the fact that this area is known for having a subtropical climate that can often see temperatures reach 48°C (118°F) in the summer, while remaining mild during the winter months. But photographer Jack Dykinga managed to capture images of the ground earlier this month when it was blanketed in 10 centimetres (4 inches) of snow, albeit just for a fleeting 4 hours – something that, according to him, hasn’t occurred in a decade.

Dykinga, who has been photographing this desert for more than 40 years, says he felt “pure joy and wonder, along with anxiety” as he hurried to reach the optimum locations to document the snow before it all melted.

“It’s very rare to see this amount,” he says. “In the south-west desert in a long drought period, it’s a time to celebrate!”

It isn’t totally clear why the snowfall happened, but it was in part due to the La Niña weather event, which is the result of the sea surface temperature in parts of the Pacific Ocean periodically dropping below average. Another factor was cold air blowing over from the Arctic.

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