A Disturbance in the Force? Rare Snowfall Blankets Tataouine

As any Star Wars fan can tell you, Luke Skywalker's planetary home of Tatooine is one of the driest, hottests worlds in that fictional galaxy far, far away -- but much closer to home, things are looking oddly frosty. In the real-life Tataouine, a Tunisian desert town nearby to where scenes from the 1977 blockbuster were filmed, unusually cold weather has brought rare snowfall not seen since, well, a long time ago.

In describing the Tatooine of film, an angstful young Luke Skywalker once said "if there's a bright center to the universe, you're on the planet that it's farthest from." But maybe he'd think differently if he knew snowball-fights were a possibility.

Tataouine on a hotter, more fictional evening.

For the first time in half-a-century, yesterday folks living in rural towns along Tunisia's Sahara frontier were surprised to find their sprawling sand dunes and arid flatlands covered by a blanket of freshly fallen snow. According to a report from Tunisia Live, a recent cold snap has dumped as much two-and-a-half feet of snow in some parts of the country, with flakes falling in desert regions that last saw snow in the early 1960s.

Tataouine, of course, isn't the only place to looking a bit like Hoth these days. Over the last week, an extremely cold weather system has left much of Europe under feet of snow, claiming hundreds of lives in the bitter freeze.

While the brutal weather is not without precedent, some experts believe that melting arctic ice associated with greenhouse gas emissions is fueling the unusually strong bout of ice and snow.

"The current weather pattern fits earlier predictions of computer models for how the atmosphere responds to the loss of sea ice due to global warming," says Professor Stefan Rahmstorf, from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, to The Independent. "The ice-free areas of the ocean act like a heater as the water is warmer than the Arctic air above it. This favours the formation of a high-pressure system near the Barents Sea, which steers cold air into Europe."

In more Jedi-layman's terms, the unusual weather may be indicative of a disturbance in the force.

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