No snowfall in Kashmir
The absence of substantial snowfall in Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, and Uttarakhand during January, typically a month adorned with snow is attributed to various factors, including a notable decline in Western Disturbances, prevailing El-Nino conditions, and the impact of shifting jet streams.
GS-02 (Physical Geography)
El Nino, La Nina, IMD, Indian Monsoon
Discuss the implications of reduced snowfall on water resources and agriculture, highlighting the role of changing weather patterns in the broader context of climate change. (150 words)
Dimensions of the Article:
- Understanding the Dry Spell
- Analyzing the Causes
- Implications and Concerns
- Adapting to Climatic Shifts
Understanding the Dry Spell:
- Historical Perspective: January usually blankets Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh in snow, creating opportunities for winter sports. However, this year has deviated from the norm, witnessing remarkably dry conditions. Popular destinations like Gulmarg and Pahalgam, synonymous with skiing, remain bereft of their customary snowy landscapes. Records from the India Meteorological Department (IMD) reveal that Himachal Pradesh recorded its driest January since 1901.
- Alarming Shortfall: The January rain in Himachal Pradesh plummeted by 99.7%, a staggering deviation from the norm. This deficiency surpasses the previous record set in 1996, signifying an unprecedented dry spell. The absence of snow has implications for water availability in major rivers, impacting regions dependent on melting glaciers.
Analyzing the Causes:
- Role of Western Disturbances: Western Disturbances (WDs), crucial for winter rains, have experienced a drastic decline this season. Normally, these storms traverse long distances, originating in mid-latitude regions to bring precipitation to northern India. However, the scarcity of WDs has contributed to the lack of snowfall and intensified cold waves over north India. The Western Himalayan Region faced an 80% reduction in rainfall due to the deficiency in WDs.
- El-Nino Influence: Prevailing El-Nino conditions, characterized by warmer ocean temperatures in the equatorial Pacific Ocean, could be a contributing factor. Irrespective of El Nino or La Nina, the number of WDs during December and January has dwindled. The winter of 2022-23 witnessed India’s hottest December, with the northwest region grappling with an 83% rainfall deficit during its peak season.
- Shift in Jet Streams: Jet streams, powerful high-altitude winds, are instrumental in carrying WDs. The altered pattern of jet streams, shifting northwards, has influenced weather conditions. This shift is attributed to warming in the Arctic seas, disrupting the natural gradient of temperature essential for the strength and direction of jet streams.
Implications and Concerns:
- Water Scarcity and Glacial Impact: The meager snowfall has repercussions for water availability, particularly impacting major rivers like the Ganga, Indus, and Yamuna. The reduction in glacial meltwater contributes to the overall decline in water resources, raising concerns about long-term water scarcity in the region.
- Changing Climatic Patterns: The disruption in traditional weather patterns, with extended dry periods and intense wet spells, aligns with the broader narrative of global warming. Meteorologists and climate scientists have consistently highlighted these irregularities, emphasizing the need for comprehensive strategies to mitigate climate change impacts.
Adapting to Climatic Shifts:
- Revisiting Agricultural Practices: Agriculture, a sector highly dependent on seasonal rainfall and snowmelt, needs adaptive strategies. Farmers may need to reconsider cropping patterns and irrigation practices to align with changing climatic conditions.
- Water Resource Management: Effective water resource management becomes imperative to address the challenges posed by erratic weather patterns. Adopting sustainable water conservation practices and reservoir management can help mitigate the impact of reduced snowfall on water availability.
- Public Awareness and Preparedness: Public awareness campaigns can play a pivotal role in preparing communities for changing climate scenarios. Educating the populace about water conservation, sustainable living, and disaster preparedness fosters resilience in the face of climatic uncertainties.