The Kashmir Valley witnessed a significant drop in snowfall this year with Srinagar staring at snowless days even during the harshest spell of winter, locally known as Chillai Kalan. Experts warn the global warming phenomena has more snowless winters in store for Srinagar.
The past 27 years of meteorological record shows that this year's 40-day harshest winter spell starting December 20 got no snowfall and comparatively recorded warm temperature, forcing rains as the only mode of precipitation rather than snowfall.
"It was in early 1990s that Kashmir witnessed the warmest winter and snowless Chillai Kalan. The cycle seems repeating this year too, resulting in no snowfall in Srinagar. There has been snowfall in upper reaches of the mountain range surrounding the Valley, but very less. This pattern is directly related to the global warming phenomena," said Dr Shakil Romshoo, Kashmir's reputed environment expert and head of department of Earth Sciences, Kashmir University.
Dr Romshoo pointed out that brief spells of rains during Chillai Kalan only reflects increase in temperature. "Chillai Kalan would only witness snowfall but rains are occurrences of rise in temperature," he added.
Unlike the past winters where the city recorded more than five spells of snowfall, there has been no snowfall in the first 33 days of Chillai Kalan in Srinagar. In fact, there has been brief spells of snowfall in the upper reaches.
Dr Romshoo warned of more snowless winters in the coming years for the capital. "In the next 30 years, snow will be scarce commodity in Srinagar. Globally, there is 50% decrease in snowfall," he alarmed.
The Valley's main source of water for rivers like Jhelum, Chenab and Sindh are Shamsbari, Pir Panchal and Himalayan mountain ranges, where less snowfall was recorded this year.
"The average snowfall received in Shamsbari from November to April is 10.5 metres and for Pir Panchal, it is 7.8 metres. However, this year it is going to be very very less," said Dr Romshoo.
The scarce snowfall will result in less discharge in the Valley rivers during the summer this year. "I do not expect scarcity of water in the summers but there will be decline in stream flow. 70% of drinking water, irrigation supply and hydel power projects depend on melting snow and glaciers during the summers," he said.
Former chief minister and National Conference working president Omar Abdullah has shared concern over snowless Srinagar. "Those wondering why snow is such a big deal need to know that the snow that falls during this month stays longer & feeds our rivers. Less snow means less discharge in our rivers & that means water shortages & lower electricity generation in the summer; bad for J&K," wrote Abdullah on Twitter.
Meanwhile, fresh snowfall in parts of south and north Kashmir in the past 24 hours has improved day and night temperature in Kashmir valley. The meteorological department forecast decrease in precipitation after 24 hours in the valley.