Updated: December 31, 2019 2:07:59 am
A record-breaking moment Monday saw the city record its coldest day in 119 years as the maximum temperature dropped to 9.4 degrees celsius, while a dense fog covered the capital and led to the cancellation of around 40 flights. Delhi’s air quality index was also in the ‘severe’ category for a third day in a row Monday, with a reading of 446.
The maximum temperature Monday, which was 11.4 degrees celsius below normal, was the lowest in every winter and all months since 1901 of which data is available, India Meteorological Department (IMD) officials said. The minimum temperature Monday was 2.6 degrees celsius.
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Previously, the record for the coldest day between 1951 and 2019 was on January 2, 2013, when the maximum temperature was 9.8 degrees celsius.
According to IMD officials, this December could also be second coldest since 1901. The coldest December on record is 1997 when the average maximum temperature was 17.35 degrees celsius, whereas this month, as of Monday, it has been 18.61 degrees celsius.
On Monday, the mercury dipped even lower in other parts of the capital. The lowest minimum temperature was recorded in Pusa at 1.6 degrees, while Mungeshpur recorded the lowest maximum temperature at 7.7 degrees celsius.
Kuldeep Srivastava, scientist at the IMD, said, “There are two reasons that are causing the dip in the temperature. One is the low cloud cover over the city, the other is cold easterly winds from Uttar Pradesh and cold northwesterly winds from the mountains up north.”
He added, “Usually easterly winds from UP are warmer, but this time the region is colder than usual and has been witnessing a number of severely cold days with maximum temperatures as low as 10 degrees.”
Srivastava added that the low cloud cover has persisted over the city for a number of days, along with the fog, because of which sunlight has not been able to break through and reach the surface to warm it.
A Western Disturbance that affected the hilly regions north of the capital around December 12 to 13 caused heavy snowfall, and cold winds from there have been blowing towards Delhi since, Srivastava said.
Another Western Disturbance hit Delhi-NCR around December 21, but it wasn’t strong and windy enough, and caused light rain which retained moisture in the air conducive for fog, Srivastava said.
“Had it been strong, it would have helped in breaking the cloud cover, allowing the sunshine to reach the earth, which would have made some difference to the temperature,” he said.
This month also recorded 14 cold days as of Monday, which is the second highest since December 1997 when 17 cold days were recorded.
The season’s “worst dense fog spell” was also recorded across the city Monday, IMD officials said, with a visibility of 0-200 metres from 2.30 am to 12 pm.
“Shallow to moderate fog then covered the city throughout the day. This fog cover is the main cause for Monday’s record-breaking lowest day maximum temperature,” IMD officials said.
The IMD has forecast that cold wave and dense fog conditions are likely to prevail over the city Tuesday with a marginal improvement. An approaching Western Disturbance is likely to cause one or two spells of light rain or drizzle, and thunderstorms, from the night of January 1 to 3, IMD officials said, after which cold wave and dense fog conditions are expected to abate.
On the air quality, the Centre-run SAFAR air and weather monitoring agency has forecast that it may improve to the higher-end of ‘poor’ range Tuesday as wind speed was expected to pick up.
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