Want to escape the biting cold wave and dense fog making plains of north India unbearable? Head out for the warmer hill towns of Himachal Pradesh blessed with longer sunny days in winters.
Blame it on or thank the global warming for this small mercy. "The hills are warming up faster, the snowline is declining and water channels are receding," said state forest minister JP Jadda. He attributed the rise in temperature to deforestation, increasing vehicular and industrial pollution and global warming.
The locals recall that winter in Shimla is not as harsh these days as it used to be till the late 1980s.
"Earlier, half of the population of Shimla used to migrate to the plains or lower hills with the onset of winter in December. Now, people have stopped migrating,” some old timers in Shimla said.
"Now even the smoke-belching chimneys are a thing of past. You can hardy see the chimneys in the houses and offices. In the newly built houses, there is no provision for chimneys. This shows that climate has changed much with the passage of time," said another local.
But tourists like Rajesh Sharma from Ludhiana are not complaining.
The night temperature here (Shimla) is quite bearable. When Ludhiana records a low of 5-8 degrees Celsius, this town, located at an altitude of 7,000, is warmer even if it records night temperature lower than 5 degrees Celsius," said another tourist, Rajesh Sharma from Ludhiana.
“We love to sit under the sun on Ridge in Shimla. We come here every winter to enjoy the sunshine as Shimla is warmer as compared to Jallandhar", said another tourist from Punjab.
Similar is the case in other popular tourist towns of Kasauli, Dharamsala, Chamba, Dalhousie and Manali that are experiencing bright sun and little wind.
"Air is warmer in Himachal as compared to plains of North India,’’ said Director of meteorological department, Manmohan Singh.
He said it was a natural phenomenon and fog accumulates when humidity level is 70 per cent or more. “In the plains, it is more. However, in the hills it's less than 30 per cent. So the sky is clear, resulting in sunny days that help to keep the maximum temperature on the higher side," he said.
According to Singh, the minimum temperature in Shimla on Tuesday morning was 5.6 degrees Celsius, five degrees above average.
Similarly, in Una (located in the lower hills adjoining Punjab), the minimum was 2.7 degrees Celsius, 2 degrees above average.
The mid and low hills across the state witnessed minimum temperature between 1.2 degrees Celsius and 5.6 degrees Celsius, which is quite above average.