A man warms himself by a bonfire as cars ply in the background on a cold and wintry night, in New Delhi.(PTI Photo)
A man warms himself by a bonfire as cars ply in the background on a cold and wintry night, in New Delhi.(PTI Photo)

Record-breaking winter worsens, Capital shivers

Some places in the desert state of Rajasthan witnessed near-zero temperatures, with fog in some places delaying at least 21 trains in the region.
Hindustan Times, New Delhi | By HT Correspondent
UPDATED ON DEC 28, 2019 12:30 AM IST

Delhi recorded the season’s lowest temperature at 4.2° Celsius on Friday as the India Meteorological Department (IMD) declared cold wave conditions in several parts of north India, predicting that the Capital and surrounding areas could witness “cold day to severe cold day conditions” over the next two days.

Some places in the desert state of Rajasthan witnessed near-zero temperatures, with fog in some places delaying at least 21 trains in the region.

The weather forecaster has said that the national capital could record the second-coldest December in a century due to significantly low day temperatures. The mean maximum temperature this month till Thursday was 19.84°C. The lowest mean maximum temperature in the city was recorded in 1997 at 17.3°C.

In the northern plains, Fatehpur town in Rajasthan’s Sikar district recorded the minimum temperature of -3° Celsius, whereas Drass in Ladakh recorded -32° Celsius. In most other places in the region, the minimum temperatures recorded were between 1° and 7° Celsius, a departure from the normal 8°and 10° Celsius.

Delhi is experiencing one of its worst winters, with an intense cold spell of 14 days and possibly the second lowest day temperatures for December recorded in a century. At the Safdarjung observatory in Delhi, the minimum temperature was 4.2° Celsius, three degrees below the season’s normal. Fog is also expected at some places in the next two days. On Friday, Delhi began recording cold wave conditions, when the minimum or night temperature at many stations was 4° below normal.

The national capital could also see a spell of bad air over the next two days, with the air quality likely to plunge to the “severe” category, on account of weak winds and increase in fog cover. The condition is likely to improve because of rain and hail expected on December 31, the weather forecaster said.

IMD has predicted some relief beginning December 31, when the higher reaches of Himachal Pradesh, Ladakh, Uttarakhand, and Jammu and Kashmir are expected to receive snow, and Delhi and other areas in the plains rain.

“Cold wave to severe cold wave conditions in some pockets over Haryana, Chandigarh, Delhi, north Rajasthan and Bihar and in isolated pockets over Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, West Bengal and Sikkim is likely during next 2 days,” IMD’s Friday bulletin said.

M Mohapatra, director general of IMD, said: “This time we are expecting more activity in the plains due to the approaching western disturbance and not as much snowfall in the hills so we are hoping extremely cold conditions will improve and winter will be bearable after this period.”

An intense cold spell, which was affecting several parts of north India, is even more severe now as minimum temperatures in these areas have started dropping significantly, leading to both a cold spell, when days are extremely cold, and a cold wave, when the nights are unusually chilly.

The main difference between a cold spell and a cold wave is that the former involves lower-than-normal maximum or day temperatures for two-three days in a row, while the latter involves lower-than-expected minimum or night temperatures for at least more than one day.

“We are experiencing a cold wave now because all stations have recorded a minimum temperature of around 4° C which is one of the criteria to declare cold wave,” said Kuldeep Shrivastava, head, regional weather forecasting centre.

The year 2019 previously saw the longest heat wave in the last three decades, most extreme rainfall events since 1971, most cyclones in a year since 1985 and natural calamities claiming close to 2,500 lives.

In Jammu and Kashmir, Srinagar recorded the coldest night of the season, with the city freezing at -5.6° Celsius and the ski-resort of Gulmarg in north Kashmir recorded a low of -9.5° Celsius last night. Kashmir is under the grip of “Chillai-Kalan”, the 40-day harshest winter period when the chances of snowfall are the most frequent and the maximum temperatures drop considerably.

Leh town in the Union Territory of Ladakh recorded a low of -20.7° Celsius and in Himachal, Kufri, Manali, Solan, Bhuntar, Sundernagar and Kalpa shivered in sub-zero temperatures, the regional IMD office said, adding that the minimum temperatures in Shimla and Dalhousie were 3.8° and 4° Celsius respectively.

“Due to persistence of cold northwesterly winds in lower levels over northwest India and other favourable meteorological conditions, cold day to severe cold day conditions in many pockets are very likely over Punjab, Haryana, Chandigarh, Delhi, north Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh during next 2 days and isolated to some pockets for subsequent 2 days, and very likely to abate from these regions from 31st December onwards,” IMD’s bulletin said.

A fresh western disturbance is likely to affect the western Himalayan region from December 30, which is set to bring widespread rain and hailstorms in many parts of northwest and central India on December 31 and January 1, according to IMD.

“There is an occasional cold spell in winter but one has been particularly long and intense. Its intensity is mainly due to two factors – cold northerly winds and low cloud cover that blocked radiation. Day time temperatures are dependent on how much solar energy you get. This cycle will break by month end when there is a western disturbance,” explained DS Pai, senior scientist at IMD, Pune.

RK Jenamani, senior scientist, National Weather Forecasting Centre, said: “The cold is extremely uncomfortable and feels severe because there is no respite from it during the day time. We are experiencing cold wave and cold day conditions now.”

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