Weekly wrap-up: Snow covers Sahara Desert for 2nd time in recorded history; Extreme warmth hits North Pole

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A winter storm spread snow and ice across the Northeast from Dec. 16-17, resulting in slick roads and numerous traffic accidents across the region.

Several of the accidents turned deadly, with at least five fatalities reported, according to the Associated Press.

Two of the deaths occurred on Interstate 95 as part of a 55-vehicle pileup near Baltimore. The accident began when a fuel tanker slid off the road and exploded.

Wintry Weather

A vehicle involved in a crash sits on the fast lane of Highway Interstate 80 after an accident during a snowfall, Saturday, Dec. 17, 2016, in Lodi, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

Another blast of arctic air surged into the north-central US over the weekend with temperatures plunging well below zero F.

The leading edge of the Arctic air raced southward across the Plains on Saturday, causing the temperature in northern Texas to drop by nearly 30 degrees in a matter of minutes.

Once over the United States, the core of the cold focused on the northern Plains with dozens of cities experiencing temperatures below -20 F on Sunday. Aberdeen, South Dakota, was one of the coldest cities across the region, dropping to a bone-chilling -37 F.

In an extremely rare occurrence, snow fell in the Sahara Desert this week. According to the Telegraph, snow was seen on the sand dunes near the desert town of Ain Sefra, Algeria, on Dec. 19.

Sahara Snow 12/19

This marks only the second time in living memory that snow has fallen in the desert. The only previously known occurrence was on Feb. 18, 1979.

The first full day of winter was unusually warm around the North Pole with temperatures on Thursday approaching the melting point (32 F/0 C). This is the equivalent of nearly 40 degrees Fahrenheit above normal.

This extreme temperature occurred in complete darkness as this part of the world does not experience any sunlight around the time of the December solstice.

Severe smog in China, which has been dubbed an "airpocalypse," resulted in school closures and hundred of flight cancellations this week. The smog is affecting 460 million people, ABC News reported.

Beijing and 21 other cities issued red alerts due to the severe air pollution, according to China's Ministry of Environmental Protection. The red alert is the most serious level of China's four-tiered warning system for air pollution.

To combat the pollution, construction sites and certain factories were expected to be shut down in Beijing and the city of Tianjin.