If you want to escape the dense fog and cold in the plains of north India, move to the hills and bask in the mellow sunshine. There is no snow here this winter, no cold wind. Just warm and sunny days greet surprised visitors to Himachal Pradesh.
"The summer capital of the British has been experiencing 'warmer' days and nights than cities in the north Indian plains," Shimla's meteorological director Manmohan Singh told IANS.
Towns in the plains like Amritsar, Jalandhar, Ludhiana, Chandigarh, Hissar, Rohtak, Jammu and Delhi have been recording lower temperature during night and early morning hours than most of the places in the hills.
In Delhi, the minimum temperature hit four degrees Celsius Friday, while it has been two degrees in Amritsar for much of this week and dipped to one degree Friday.
"Despite being located at a height of 7,000 feet above sea level, Shimla and its surrounding areas have been recording minimum temperature around five degrees Celsius during the past one week," Singh said. Though that low dipped to 4.1 degrees Friday, it stayed sunny and windless.
Singh said the minimum temperature of this tourist town was high due to long bright sunny days.
"The minimum and maximum temperatures in the plains are well within the normal limits. But in Shimla, the minimum temperatures are 4-5 degrees above normal," he said.
But Kullu town, located at a height much lower than that of Shimla, has been recording night temperatures around 1.1 degrees Celsius. Similarly, Una town, which is located in lower hills, has been recording 1.0 degree Celsius minimum temperature.
"Now, the winter in Shimla and its nearby areas is not as harsh as it was till the late 1970s. The smoke-belching chimneys are a thing of past," said Vijay Kumar, who has been living in Shimla since 1965.
State Council for Science, Technology and Environment Joint Member Secretary R.K. Sood recalled that once in the 1960s, the minimum temperature here had plunged to minus 13 degrees Celsius. "The temperature remained below the freezing point for days together."
Some local residents have been wondering if the rise in minimum temperatures in recent years is a result of global warming, though scientists have said the overall warming trend should not have any effect on local weather on such short time scales, according to current models.