Farmers warm themselves around a bonfire on a cold evening at the Delhi-Ghazipur border. (File photo)
Farmers warm themselves around a bonfire on a cold evening at the Delhi-Ghazipur border. (File photo)

Minimum temperature in Capital falls to 2°C, cold wave to stay: IMD

IMD scientists said cold wave conditions are expected to continue in Delhi and NCR at least till the next five days
UPDATED ON JAN 15, 2021 07:11 AM IST

Temperatures plummeted and air pollution shot up in the national capital on Thursday when the morning was as cold as 2°C and the 24-hour average air quality index rose to 429 – conditions that are unlikely to improve till early next week, weather scientists said.

The city is in the grip of its second cold wave of the winter, brought on by icy winds from the Himalayan range that are now affecting large parts of the country’s north and northwest.

“Severe cold conditions are likely to continue over Delhi till January 18. After that, the wind direction will change from north-westerly to easterly. Simply put, at present Delhi is receiving icy cold winds from the snow-clad states of Jammu and Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh but after January 18, winds will start coming in from the landlocked states and there will be some respite,” said Kuldeep Srivastava, head of India Meteorological Department (IMD)’s regional weather forecasting centre.

The minimum temperature at the Safdarjung observatory, which is considered the official marker for Delhi’s weather, was 2°C. The maximum was 19.2°C, a degree below what is considered to be normal for this time of the year.

At the Palam and Lodhi Road weather stations, the minimum temperatures were 4.9°C and 2.4°C respectively.

This is the second time this season that Delhi residents are experiencing a sharp drop in temperatures. The last cold spell occurred around the end of 2020 when the minimum temperature on New Year’s Day dropped to 1.1°C – the lowest recorded in 14 years.

IMD scientists said the minimum temperature is likely to rise, but only marginally, on Friday. It will fall again from Saturday.

The fall in temperatures has also coincided with a slowing of wind speeds, trapping pollutants in the air. The AQI shot up to 429 from 354 on Wednesday.

This is the third time in the last fortnight that the AQI in Delhi had crossed the severe threshold. Similar to the last very cold spell, the last time pollution was this high was on January 1, when the AQI was 441. It stayed almost at the same level (rising by a notch) on January 2 – both these days had similar weather conditions: low temperatures and calm winds.

An AQI between 301 and 400 “very poor”, while a reading between 401 and 500 is “severe”.

“The average wind speed on Thursday was less than 6kmph. This, along with the moisture content in the air, is not letting pollutants to disperse properly. Similar conditions will prevail till January 18,” said VK Soni, head of IMD’s environment monitoring and research centre.

Union ministry of earth science’s air quality monitoring centre, System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research (Safar), warned that the coming week could be the “first extended extreme air pollution event for 2021”.

“The AQI is forecasted to deteriorate rapidly in the next three days. The combination of dense fog formation leading to secondary particulate formation under congenial conditions of high humidity, extremely low ventilation and shallow boundary layer height is a major reason for the predicted smog episode in the coming days,” the Safar forecast read.

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