Parts of north India, including Delhi, could experience an extended winter, as a cluster of stormy weather systems known as “western disturbances” has closed in on nearly half of the country from many sides.
These disturbances are expected to last till March 17-18 as forecasters said another wet spell is likely to move in from Pakistan on March 15, and last for two-three days.
Storms battered farms in nine states and threaten to hold up harvesting of the main winter or rabi crop, which accounts for 50% of India’s total food output. Disruptions in harvest could push up food prices again.
In Delhi, overnight rain on Sunday cooled the city and neighbouring areas but also disrupted traffic on Monday morning.
“This weather is not uncommon. But going by the pattern this time, it may result in an extended winter,” said S Sivananda Pai, the head of long-range forecasts at the Met. Minimum temperatures are currently 2-5°C below normal at many places.
A view of damaged wheat crops near Rauke Kalan village in district Moga, Punjab. (HT photo)
The twirling balls of moisture-laden winds fanned out into a wide swathe of the Indian mainland. In the north, the system drifted into Kashmir from Pakistan and pushed towards central India, expanding along the way.
A similar stormy trough crawled into Kerala from the Arabian Sea. Another cyclonic circulation is hovering over Odisha and adjoining West Bengal.
Since Saturday, squalls have pounded many states, including Maharashtra, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, Haryana and UP.
Hailstorms have damaged grape farms in Maharashtra’s Sangli, chickpea crops in Andhra, rapeseed plantations in Rajasthan and red gram in Karnataka. The freak weather could force India to revise downward its total estimated food output this year of 263 million tonnes, the highest ever.