The dreaded fog season has arrived, and it is only going to get worse.
The Capital and its neighbouring areas were enveloped by thick fog on Sunday morning, throwing air traffic, trains and road traffic out of gear.
At the Indira Gandhi International Airport, visibility dropped to 200 metres early on Sunday. With thick fog affecting flight operations at Varanasi, Lucknow, Ranchi and Agra airports, flights to these destinations were badly affected. About 25 flights were delayed by half-an-hour to six hours.
The Met department has predicted similar mornings for Delhi for the next couple of days. The onset of dense fog — which was earlier predicted after December 20 — might be advanced.
"Visibility dipped to 200 metres at IGI airport on Sunday, and the city recorded zero visibility in the morning," said RK Jenamani, director-in-charge, IGI met unit. He said that a few days of freak fog was not unusual in late November, but this was different.
"Normally, some rain is followed by such dense fog, but what we saw on Sunday was the result of high humidity level in the atmosphere and the lack of strong winds to blow the fog away," he said.
Jenamani said the Delhi airport might witness the early onset of a prolonged period of dense fog. "We are monitoring the situation and the earlier forecast of December 20 for the onset of fog will be reviewed," he said.
What would make matters worse for air travellers is the unavailability of the runway 28 of IGI airport, which is its main workhorse among the three runways during thick fog.
The CAT IIIB instrument landing system (ILS) of runway 28 — which allows pilots to land in near zero visibility — has been downgraded and can only function upto 350 metres. All efforts by the Airports Authority of India, which manages air traffic at the airport, to recalibrate the ILS has been fruitless.
"There are some technical issues but those will be resolved soon," an AAI spokesman assured. This also means that low cost carriers landing at third runway 29, which is further from domestic Terminal 1D, will have to take a huge detour to reach the terminal.