The normally white-capped mountains of Eastern Europe have become the color of rust.

Desert winds from the Sahara are to blame, sweeping dust north over the Mediterranean Sea into Russia, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Romania and Moldova. The dust was brought to the ground by rain and snow Friday into the weekend.

The deposits on the ski slopes in Sochi, Russia, host of the 2014 Winter Games, were likened to sandy beaches and the surface of Mars.

The dusty plume in the air streaking from North Africa to Eastern Europe was readily apparent in weather satellite imagery.


Satellite image shows dust plume streaming into Europe from the Northern Sahara. (NASA)

The BBC reported that this phenomenon happens in the region about once every five years.

The dust not only sprayed Eastern Europe’s snow but also transformed the Mediterranean sky from blue to shades of yellow and orange.

The Athens Observatory called the dust intrusion in Greece as one of the largest ever seen, according to CNN.

Counterclockwise winds around a storm in the Mediterranean helped steer the Saharan dust northward, as shown in the computer model visualization below.


NASA GEOS-5 dust concentration model simulation Wednesday night to Friday night. (WeatherBell.com)

It is the second major plume of dust to sweep over Europe in the past six months.

In October, the circulation around Hurricane Ophelia helped draw up dust over much of western Europe. Skies over London turned yellow, sepia, tan and red. “The sky in #London has turned into a CRAZY(!) reddish brown colour,” tweeted Tomasz Schafernaker, a meteorologist for the BBC. “It feels incredibly weird . . . and getting more weird by the minute. So many people are looking at the sky and taking photos.”

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