Winter in Kashmir is considered as a magical season. During this season as the snow blankets the earth, the entire valley transforms into a white paradise. Winter is the coldest season in Kashmir. It starts in December in and lasts in the middle of March. There is hitting chill in the air. Cold and icy winds blow throughout this time. Days are short and nights are long. People put on their woolen clothes as soon as winter season sets in. They use blankets and others warm coverings. Phiran is very famous in Kashmir and is commonly put on during winter. All activities come to standstill. Life in the valley becomes immobile. People especially elders confine themselves within their homes. Business almost comes to an end. Birds and beasts retire into their hidings.
This year Climate change causes dry spell in Kashmir: Kashmir Valley is witnessing an unprecedented change in the weather. In January, tourist resorts such as Gulmarg, Pahalgam, and Sonmarg would typically have accumulated ample snow by now. But this year, the winter wonderland of Kashmir, Gulmarg is dry with no snow anywhere to be seen. Experts attribute the disappointment of tourists who visit to witness the snow to global warming.Kashmir valley is facing a dry spell this season, with no snow or rain in the valley. The MeT Department says that there is around 75 per cent rainfall deficit through December and January, and the world-famous ski resort Gulmarg slopes are looking barren with no snow cover. Weather is expected to remain dry throughout Kashmir with no major weather activity till 24 January as predicted by MeT. There is no major relief from this dry spell for the next few days. Over the years, the glaciers have shrunk, and this year there has been no snow, and the rate of shrinkage can be rapid due to absence of snowfall.
“Dry, snowless peaks have cast a shadow on tourism in Kashmir but the impact of the underlying causes on the next few months is far more worrying — for they could portend a warmer spring. The absence of active western disturbances and shortage of rain and snow will have implications for the Rabi (winter) crop and are suggestive of high temperatures early in spring. There is no clarity on why there have been no western disturbances, but the climate crisis may be to blame”.
Long term implications of the dry spell could affect ground water level and horticulture sector too. Snowfalls happen due to western disturbances, but the frequencies of western disturbances have reduced as the mid-latitude jet streams causing such circulations are moving north towards the polar region due to global warming. Jet streams are fast-flowing, narrow, meandering air currents in the atmosphere having a strong influence on local weather. The western disturbances are embedded in the mid-latitude subtropical westerly jet streams. With temperature increasing, systems are going further north, robbing the region of crucial winter precipitations. Snowfall has a direct relation with western disturbances during winter months. There has been no active western disturbance since December. There has been no cold wave this season except in isolated stations. We are not expecting any active western disturbance in the coming days also. Dry, snowless peaks have cast a shadow on tourism in Kashmir but the impact of the underlying causes on the next few months is far more worrying — for they could portend a warmer spring. The absence of active western disturbances and shortage of rain and snow will have implications for the Rabi (winter) crop and are suggestive of high temperatures early in spring. There is no clarity on why there have been no western disturbances, but the climate crisis may be to blame.
(The author a teacher with J&K School Education Department. The views, opinions and conclusions expressed in this article are those of the author and aren’t necessarily in accord with the views of “Kashmir Horizon”.)