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Scanty snowfall could signal Kashmir’s warming weather

A boy enjoy on snow during fresh snowfall outskirts in Srinagar.

A boy enjoy on snow during fresh snowfall outskirts in Srinagar.

Jammu and Kashmir summer capital Srinagar saw a major drop in the number of snow spells this winter season compared to the previous four years, with the Valley experts terming it as a weathervane of coming prolonged warmer months compared to colder months, unlike the past weather pattern.

According to the data of the India Meteorological Department (IMD), November 2021 witnessed no major wet spell or snowfall in Srinagar compared to the five wet spells in 2020, 11 in 2019, four in 2018. The month of December 2021, which sees the beginning of the harshest spell of winter called 'Chillai Kalan', saw three wet spells but no snowfall unlike the four snow spells in 2020, three in 2019, one in 2018 and eight in 2017.

The month of January saw 10 wet spells in 2022, including major spells of rain and no prolonged snow accumulation on the ground. In January 2021, there were eight major wet spells, mainly snowfall; 10 spells with snowfall in 2020; 13 spells with snowfall in 2019 and one spell with major snowfall accumulation in 2018, the IMD data suggested.

The biggest indicator of warmer winter this year is reflected in early sprouting of flowers in the last week of January, which otherwise starts from the second or third week of February.

"Early sprouting is visible this year. Srinagar is witnessing a seasonal variation. Winters are heading more towards spring-like weather. We observe that even Western disturbances bring more precipitation as rainfall than snow in Srinagar, which may not be true of upper reaches though," Dr. Mohammad Muslim, assistant professor at the Department of Environmental Science, Kashmir University (KU), told The Hindu.

Srinagar city, according to a study carried over a period of 40 years (1971–2011), has already indicated that Srinagar's built-up area has increased by 585.08% and the population has increased by 214.75%. A forecast showed an increase of 246.84 km2 in built-up area, which exceeds the overall carrying capacity of the city. Srinagar's population has soared to about 1.26 million, which alone constitutes 10% of the total population of the Union Territory, the study by KU research scholars, including Dr. Muslim, points out.

"Heat budget generated by Srinagar has gone up due to rapid urbanisation, depleting green cover and increased vehicular emissions," Dr. Muslim warned.

Area under agriculture in Srinagar, the study highlighted, has drastically reduced by 11.65%, followed by the plantation 8.35% and wetlands and water bodies by about 3.77km2 and 1.49% respectively.

Experts predict warmer winters as Srinagar's population is set to increase by 1.83 million in 2031.

"Our changed ecosystem is already creating a rare energy budget that has started attracting the summer monsoon from mainland India, which was not true earlier. This has pushed even arid autumn to more humid conditions in Kashmir," Dr. Muslim said.

Another study by local researchers in KU titled 'Evaluating the variability and trends in extreme climate events in the Kashmir Valley, is also suggesting that the grids pertaining to the Valley's plains "shall have more extreme events in maximum temperatures, while as the grids towards the mountain fronts shall have more extreme events in precipitation and minimum temperatures in the future".

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Printable version | Jun 10, 2022 9:10:57 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/scanty-snowfall-this-winter-in-srinagar-indicator-of-valleys-changing-weather-pattern/article38420016.ece