It was a cold start of 2021 for Delhi, when the minimum temperatures dropped to 1.1 degree Celsius. This was a continuing trend experienced across North and Northwest India – which was reeling under a severe cold wave during the last ten days of 2020.
After such a biting cold, many places in the North welcomed the new year’s first week with light rain in the plains, and heavy snowfall reported along the hills.
Anjali Marar explains the current weather, its impact and what weather is in store in the days ahead, this winter.
From severe cold wave to rains, how has winter been over North India?
The India Meteorological Department (IMD) identifies January and February as the winter months over the country. Except for the southern peninsular regions, winter is experienced over all the rest regions of the country starting mid-December.
This year, the season’s first cold wave gripped Delhi, Punjab, Rajasthan, Chandigarh, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh along with parts of Uttar Pradesh, east Madhya Pradesh and Odisha around Christmas. The spell intensified towards the year-end and covered greater geographical areas, as the mercury hovered below 5 degree Celsius over most of these places.
After an intense cold, Delhi, on Monday, experienced light rainfall. Snowfall over the last two days hit road and air traffic in Jammu and Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh. The flight operations from Srinagar airport remained suspended even on Monday. About 300 tourists were reportedly stranded at the Atal Tunnel in Rohtang in Himachal Pradesh.
How severe did the cold day and cold wave conditions get?
Cold day is declared when the maximum temperatures recorded over a place falls below 16 degrees, in the plains.
The IMD declares a cold wave, when the minimum temperatures show a departure of 5 to 6 degrees from normal. This also holds true, when the temperatures fall below 0 degrees, anywhere. A fall in minimum temperature below 7 degrees from normal is declared as a severe cold wave condition.
A transition in the weather over North India began after December 20. Two consecutive western disturbances crossed the extremely northern regions of India between December 24 – 29, leading to severe cold wave conditions.
In the plains, Churu in Rajasthan recorded -1.5 degrees, its coldest December day since 2008. Likewise, Delhi (Safdarjung) reported 1.1 degrees on the New Year’s Day, making it the second coldest start to the year in 15 years. Pahalgam recorded minus 9 degrees whereas Jammu city recorded 2.9 degrees, on December 31.
Dense fog wrapped the northern states, especially Punjab, Chandigarh and Himachal Pradesh, severely affecting the visibility.
What is the forecast?
Since January 2, the minimum temperatures across most places in the North have shown an increasing trend (see box). Light rainfall was reported at isolated places in the national capital, which recorded 14.8mm till 8.30am on Monday (24-hour). Qazigund, Banihal, Batote and Kumaon recorded 20mm on the day.
This shift from extreme cold to wet weather was mainly due to the interaction between the south-westerly winds and the prevailing western disturbances.
Cold conditions will prevail, causing heavy snowfall and rainfall over Jammu and Kashmir and areas along the western Himalayan regions, till January 6, with intense snowing expected on Monday and Tuesday.
Scattered rainfall accompanied by thunderstorm and lightning is forecast over Punjab, Delhi, Chandigarh, north Rajasthan west Uttar Pradesh, and northwest Madhya Pradesh till Tuesday. Hailstorms are also forecast in these states during the next 48 hours.
Soon after the passing of the prevailing western disturbances, clear sky conditions would return and lead to normal solar heating. This will allow cold northerly winds to set in over North India, as a result, Rajasthan, Haryana Punjab are set to experience cold to severe cold wave conditions after January 7.
Minimum temperatures on Jan 4, 2021
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