Fog in plains, no snow on mountains -- a summary of current winter season

Fog in plains, no snow on mountains -- a summary of current winter season


Global warming effects have been amplified by El Nino

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LAHORE/SRINAGAR (Web Desk) – Thick fog has covered central, north-eastern and much of the eastern parts of Pakistan, plummeting the day temperatures. Sun had initially disappeared for days, but somehow has managed to appear for a few hours in afternoon during the past few days, bringing some relief.

Absence of sunshine and high level of humidity mean we are feeling as if the mercury has dropped to zero even in the Indus plains, which isn’t the case.

But this fog is not limited to Pakistan, as a much larger region of India is experiencing the same conditions. It is common problem for the two rival neighbours.

The reason is simple: There are no westerlies to bring rain to Pakistan and India because Iran and Afghanistan on across our western borders too have received very little precipitation this season.

Although global warming or climate change has resulted in a marked decrease in rainfall across the region, the situation is much worse this winter season. So there is nothing to disrupt the atmosphere over Pakistan and India, resulting in dense fog cover.

However, the fog has only followed over two months of smog – a manifestation of man-made disasters, as South Asia is unable to tackle the pollution challenge for a variety reasons.

Read more: South Asia - the global pollution hotspot: Pakistan, India see fourfold increase in vehicles since 2000

When you don’t have clouds to bring in rain, you obviously can’t receive snow – an alarming as glaciers in Himalayas, Karakorum and Hindukush mountains are already shrinking at an alarming rate amid rising temperature and erratic rains/snowfall caused by global warming.

Read more: Global warming and Pakistan: UN report warns glaciers and dependent people are at risk

Hence, our mountains – barring the peaks at very high altitudes – aren’t white this time of the year. If there is no white cover on January 16, when will they get whitewash?

In this connection, Reuters says a lack of snowfall has led to empty ski resorts and holiday cancellations in the Indian Himalayas, with scientists linking the "unusual" winter to the El Nino weather phenomenon.

The dry spell in Kashmir has pushed skiers to skip the popular resort of Gulmarg, one of the highest in the world, and left hotels in the scenic region waiting for fresh falls to draw tourists to the panoramic views of snow-capped peaks.

Scientists said that this winter's conditions in northern India have not been seen for about a decade, marked by the absence of snowfall in the mountains and biting cold made worse by thick fog in the plains.

"Fifty per cent of the season is already gone," said Farhat Naik, 35, a Gulmarg snowboard instructor, ruing at the sight of dry, barren land that would normally be covered in a knee-deep layer of snow.

"We are now hoping for snowfall in February first week," he said, adding that all his European and American clients have cancelled their trips due to a lack of snow - a blow to the tourism and agriculture focused economy of the region.

Travel industry executives in the neighbouring states of Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand also complained of cancellations.

Bookings have dropped to 20pc for Blue Poppy Resort in the ski resort of Auli, in Uttarakhand, its owner Kushaal Sangwan said. "Our cancellations have jumped and people cancel (just) days before the booking if there is no snow."

Winter snow and rain in northern India, including the Himalayas, is brought by a weather pattern known as the western disturbances - frequent extra-tropical storms that originate in the Mediterranean Sea.

There are usually many such storms during winter but they have been largely absent this season, said RK Jenamani, a senior scientist at the India Meteorological Department (IMD). "When there's no weather system, how can there be (snow)," he said.

The disappearance of western disturbances is linked to changing wind patterns and rising temperatures due to the active El Nino weather phenomenon and also climate change, said Gufran Beig, a former chief scientist at the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology.

The current weather was very unusual for this time, Beig said. "It's January and it is still very cold in Delhi ... there is excess moisture in the air but there's also no snow ... It's been one of the most polluted and prolonged stretches of winter."