Baghdad experienced snowfall for the first time in over a decade on Tuesday, in what meteorologists claim is the biggest snowfall in Iraq for the past century.
People rushed to have snowball fights and take selfies on Tuesday as residents woke on Tuesday to a city carpeted in white. Iraqis of all ages said it was the first time they had ever seen snowfall in Baghdad.
According to the Iraqi Meteorological Organization, the country is currently experiencing a cold polar air mass, which reached its climax early on Tuesday morning. Current weather forecasts indicate that the air mass will cover the entire country, causing a sharp fall in temperatures.
“Snowfall may continue until Wednesday given the very cold weather,” Amer al-Jaberi, media head of the Iraqi Meteorological Centre, told the AFP. “This cold wave came from Europe.”
— Al Jazeera English (@AJEnglish) February 11, 2020
The climate of Baghdad is known as a desert climate, meaning it usually experiences extremely hot, dry summers and mild winters. The average daily temperature during February is around 12.5 degrees celsius (54.5 Fahrenheit), compared with a mean of over 34 celsius (90 Fahrenheit) at the height of summer.
Snowfall is known to occasionally occur in northern parts of the country, particularly in mountainous regions and regions such as the war-torn city of Mosul, although it becomes an extremely rare occurrence as one travels further south. The last time Baghdad had snowfall was in 2008, although the flakes quickly turned to slush before melting soon afterward.
— Rudaw English (@RudawEnglish) February 11, 2020
The weather has been described as a short moment of respite for the troubled country as it continues to grapple with mass anti-government demonstrations that began last October. Over 500 people have died as a result of the protests as state security forces used tear gas and even opened fire to disperse protesters. The movement has lost steam in recent weeks after the powerful Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr withdrew his support for the protests.
“Thank God it is snowing this morning,” protester Aymen Ahmed told 7News. “The atmosphere is beautiful … the people are very happy because this is the first time snow falls in Iraq.”
Iraq has experienced a number of severe weather events in the past few years. Temperatures in Baghdad have repeatedly come close to surpassing the record of 51 degrees Celsius (125 Fahrenheit) in recent years, triggering wildfires and burning crops. In 2018, chronic water shortages also caused a health crisis in the center and the south. Then last year, heavy rainfall led to serious flooding and widespread damage to the country’s infrastructure.