No white winter? Peaks still brown due to deficient snow
There has been hardly any snow in the upper and lower reaches of Himalayas in December, according to India Meteorological Department (IMD), because of the absence of a strong western disturbance.
The result is a milder winter, at least until now.
Many Himalayan peaks remain brown at a time when they should have received at least a couple of moderate spells of snowfall. Western disturbances are cyclonic formations originating in the Mediterranean that bring winter rain and snow to northwest India starting November. Typically, northwest India sees 2-3 moderate to strong western disturbances in November and 2-3 in December. This year it saw none since November 10 , a situation that hasn’t changed thus far in December.
There is a 97% rainfall/snowfall deficiency over Himachal Pradesh; 80% deficiency over Jammu and Kashmir in December according to IMD. And there was no rainfall or snowfall over Uttarakhand . The Leh region and some more parts of Jammu and Kashmir recorded light snowfall on December 9 due to a feeble western disturbance.
“This time even the upper reaches of the Himalayas haven’t received snowfall in many areas. This is mainly because no strong western disturbance has affected the region since November. It’s too early to say if this is unusual. We have to see if a strong WD strikes the region in the second half of December. As of today we do not have projections of a WD affecting the region immediately. This doesn’t necessarily mean there will be no cold wave,” said RK Jenamani, senior scientist, national weather forecasting centre, IMD.
The impact is also evident in temperatures.
Manali, on Thursday recorded maximum temperature of 15.2 degree C and minimum of 2 degree C, both 2 degrees above normal; Kullu recorded maximum of 22.1, 4 degrees above normal and minimum of 0.6 degrees, 0.1 degree C below normal; Mussoorie recorded minimum temperature of 10.2 degree C, 5 degrees above normal and maximum of 19.8 degree C, 6 degrees above normal; Shimla recorded minimum of 10.5 degree C, 5 degrees above normal and maximum of 19 degrees, 6 degrees above normal; Dharamsala recorded maximum of 24 degrees, 6 degree C above normal and minimum of 8.2 degree C, 1 degree above normal.
“There has been almost no snowfall in December in the hill states including Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Jammu and Kashmir. In October and November there was some snowfall over J&K and Himachal Pradesh but not substantial. This is very unusual. Only two feeble western disturbances affected the Western Himalayan region this month. Starting November, three or four intense WDs that bring winter rain or snow should have impacted the region. This has led to very warm temperatures over many areas and no snow. We can see that winter sports haven’t started yet in the hill states and tourist footfall is also low compared to other years. Due to feeble WDs, humidity is low which is why there is no fog and there is clear sunshine. Clear days increase the daytime temperature,” said Mahesh Palawat, vice president, climate and meteorology, Skymet Weather.
He added that it is unlikely that an intense WD will affect the region until Christmas. “This could mean we have to wait until after Christmas for snow. In fact, snowfall may begin only during the end of December as per models ; a moderate WD is expected.” Lack of snowfall can impact the winter crop particularly wheat if temperatures don’t fall beyond a certain threshold. Streams too will be affected in higher reaches, Palawat said.
Some weather enthusiasts and researchers have been tweeting pictures of brown peaks. “Almost a snowless Chaukhamba on 15 December 2022 #Uttarakhand” tweeted Weatherman Shubham who runs a weather portal. He also posted pictures of a dry Kedarnath.