Did it really snow in Cameroon?

Images showing people expressing surprise at what looks like layers of ice on the ground in Bana, a town in Western Cameroon, were shared on social media between September 10 and 11. Many people said they were sure that it was snowing. However, this is unlikely as the temperature varied between 15 and 23 degrees celsius on those days. The FRANCE 24 Observers team found that the pictures actually show a pile of hailstones.

Residents of the town of Bana in western Cameroon enjoying themselves in what they thought was snow.
Residents of the town of Bana in western Cameroon enjoying themselves in what they thought was snow. © Observers

Posts published on the website ‘Information 237’ that were shared more than 700 times suggested it was snowfall, while the ‘Krol’s News’ outlet claimed that the phenomenon was the result of “climate change”. However, both of these claims are inaccurate.

'The hailstones didn't melt quickly'

The Observers team spoke to Sylvain Aoudou Doua, the head of the meteorology and climatology department at the University of Maroua in northern Cameroon, who told us that the images show a hailstorm – not snow.

Bana is a town in a plateau area that has an altitude of 2,000 metres, where temperatures are quite cold. A very intense convection [an atmospheric phenomenon caused by air instability, which leads to thunderstorms or cyclones, editor's note] occurred, which caused temperatures and rainfall to suddenly fall. The hailstones therefore piled up on the ground. 

The intensity of the precipitation, combined with the fact that the clouds were not very high and the ambient temperature was low, did not allow the hailstones to melt quickly, giving the impression that it was snow.



'A well-known phenomenon", according to the Transport Minister'

In Cameroon, heavy rainfall and thunderstorms often occur during the months of September and October, which is when “this well-known phenomenon" happens, according to a statement issued by Transport Minister Jean Ernest Massena Ngalle Bibehe on September 10. Hail was recorded in the western city of Dschang in 2017 and in the northwestern city of Bamenda two years later.

However, the minister called on the population to be vigilant, as "extreme events such as hailstorms and heavy rainfall could occur throughout the current rainy season in some regions of the country, including the far northern and western coasts and urban areas in central Cameroon".