The fact that snow is white seems like a pretty basic truth. But over the weekend in parts of eastern Europe, the snow turned orange.

According to the BBC, the apocalyptic tint is the result of Saharan sand mixing with snow, rain, dust, and pollen. While these colorful snowfalls typically occur every five years or so in the region, meteorologists said there were especially high concentrations of sand in the snow this time around.

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“There has been a lot of lifted sand or dust originating from North Africa and the Sahara, from sand storms which have formed in the desert,” UK Met Office meteorologist Steven Keates told The Independent. “As the sand gets lifted to the upper levels of the atmosphere, it gets distributed elsewhere.”

Satellite image shows dust plume streaming into Europe from the Northern Sahara.
Image: NASA

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Photos online showed the orange snow in Russia, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Romania and Moldova, with some comparing the experience of skiing in the snow to what it might feel like to hit the slopes on Mars.

According to the Athens Observatory’s meteorological service, it was the highest concentration of African dust to blanket Greece in a decade, and “one of the largest transfers of desert sand” from the Sahara to the country on record.

Sky News weather presenter Isabel Lang said the event was caused by “stormy conditions across north Africa and a favorable southerly airflow at higher levels drawing dust and sand over the eastern Mediterranean and up across eastern Europe.”

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Another interpretation is that the Sahara is getting revenge after a rare desert snowfall earlier this year.

Update: A previous version of this post included a statement from an outside source that was not properly attributed. The text has been updated to clarify the source of the language and properly attribute it.

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