It was the heaviest snow since 1996, said Stefan Grab, a professor at the University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa). Twenty years ago, the snow would have lasted as long as a week in places. This year, he said, snow at altitudes at or below 1800 meters (roughly 5,900 feet) melted within a day or two.
“This particular snowfall was an extreme event, but it’s only extreme in the context that we haven’t had something like this in a long time," said Grab. "In the first half of the 20th century, or certainly in the 19th century, these were very common.”
Lesotho’s winters tend to be short, usually beginning in June and ending in early August. The hilly, landlocked kingdom, surrounded on all sides by South Africa, is comparable to Maryland in size. Most of the year, the mountain peaks are full green grass, thatch-roofed huts, and shepherds grazing their flocks. Permanent pastures account for more than 65 percent of Lesotho’s agricultural land. Hot summers bring plentiful rain, while winters are cold and typically dry. The landscape turns yellow around May, with prickly, parched grass and areas of burnt vegetation.
The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite captured this image of heavy snow on July 27, 2016.