Winter woes: Low temperatures are hitting parts of the country, owing to a cold wave. Photo: Ahron de Leeuw/flickr

Cold waves notwithstanding, India recorded warmest December in 122 years

By the end of December, North India came under the spell of cold wave: In Rajasthan, Fatehpur recorded a low -1.5°C, seven notches below normal. Churu and Karauli recorded the next lowest night temperature at 0°C and 0.2°C, respectively. Delhi recorded its second coldest January morning in 16 years: 1.9°C at Safdarjung was five degrees below normal which dropped further to 1.4°C on January 16. A cold wave is declared when the minimum temperature is 4.5°C or more below the normal mark, or when it drops to 4°C or lower. Starting January 5, Safdarjung area in Delhi recorded cold wave conditions. Cold wave conditions have continued well into January.

In Uttar Pradesh, daytime temperatures were significantly lower than usual: Bareilly (11.9°C) and Aligarh (11.0°C), with both recording a negative deviation of over 10°C. According to IMD data, Jammu and Kashmir recorded sub-zero minimum temperatures on Monday : Srinagar at -3.5°C; Pahalgam at -5.7°C; Gulmarg at -5°C; Leh at -13.4°C; Kargil at -10.3°C. According to officials, intense cold conditions led to freezing of water supply lines in many areas of Kashmir, as well as the freezing of the interiors of the Dal Lake.

Despite the drop in temperatures over past weeks, India experienced its warmest December in 122 years with average minimum temperature 1.21 degrees above normal and the average maximum temperature 0.79°C above normal, as per the India Meteorological Department. The  country average of maximum, minimum and mean temperature was 27.32°C, 15.65°C and 21.49°C respectively in December 2022, compared to the normal of 26.53 °C, 14.44 °Cand 20.49°C. There was a country-wide decline in rainfall in December at 13.6 mm, which was 14% less than the Long Period Average (LPA) of 15.9 mm. Rainfall was also deficient over most of the country, barring the southern peninsula which saw a large excess of 79%. Overall, India witnessed 83% rain deficiency, 77% rain deficiency over central India; 53% rain deficiency over east and northeast India and 79% excess over peninsular India. Scientists find such warm temperatures in the year of La Nina (the event makes the central and eastern Pacific Ocean colder than normal) unusual. 

India: Wheat, mustard and oilseed yields to increase under cold spell

The drop in temperatures in India over recent weeks could be a boon for the the country’s winter crops. India is all set to reap a bumper harvest of wheat, the main winter staple, and also mustard. According to the report, the cold spell in Punjab, Madhya Pradesh, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh will help improve yields of not just wheat, but also coarse cereals like barley and jowar, pulses and oilseeds. The stocks of these rabi crops are expected to replenish after a year of tight supply of food items like rice and wheat, effectively stabilising food inflation, the report added. 

Heatwaves followed by patchy rains depleted India’s crop yields in 2022. India’s wheat output dropped from 109.59 million tonnes to 106.84 million tonnes in March 2022; and then, the patchy rains during monsoon shrunk rice output by 5-6%, the report said. “We expect wheat output to be around 111-112 million tonnes. The cold weather has provided the necessary chill factor for good crop development. Farmers have expanded the area under wheat due to prevailing high prices,” Rahul Chauhan, a commodities tracker, told the weather channel.

Himalayas was almost snow-free in December 2022

According to India Meteorological Department, the Himalayas were almost snow-free in December 2022, because of the absence of a strong western disturbance (cyclonic formations originating in the Mediterranean that bring winter rain and snow to northwest India starting November), HT reported. As a result, the peaks remained brown instead of receiving moderate spells of snowfall, reported HT. Normally, northwest India sees 2-3 moderate to strong western disturbances in November and 2-3 in December, but since November 10, there have been none, the report said. Himachal Pradesh recorded 97% rainfall/snowfall deficiency, Jammu & Kashmir 80% deficiency in December according to IMD. Uttarakhand recorded no rainfall or snowfall.

Meanwhile, the government told Parliament that heavy rains damaged agricultural crops mostly in Karnataka in December 2022. The state saw 1,031,102 hectares of damaged crop area, followed by Assam with 245,837.7 ha, the Centre informed the upper house. 

Half of the world’s glaciers will disappear this century: Study

Half of the world’s glaciers will disappear with 1.5°C of global warming scenario for slowing down climate change, according to a new study published in Science and reported by many publications. At least half of that loss will happen in the next 30 years, reported the Guardian. According to the study 3°C of warming would translate into a loss of over 70% of global glaciers and result in about five inches of global sea level rise, reported the Washington Post. 

Almost all glaciers will disappear in central Europe, western Canada and the US by the end of the next century if global temperatures rose under the current 2.7°C warming. This will cause the seas to rise, threaten the supply of water of up to 2 billion people, and increase the risk of natural hazards such as flooding. The study looked at all glacial land ice except for Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets.

January temperatures at all-time high in Europe

Winter heat “smashed records” all over Europe. Warsaw, Poland, saw 18.9C (66F) on Sunday while Bilbao, Spain, was 25.1°C  — more than 10°C above average, reported the BBC and several other publications. At least seven more European countries have seen record highs. “The door is closing” wrote the Guardian adding that the “heatwave should alarm us all”. The editorial cited a climatologist referring to the winter heat as “the most extreme event in European history”. Poland, where the average January temperature is around 1°C, saw the thermometer climb to 19°C on New Year’s Day.  Ski resorts have shut slopes, corps have been damaged. Sudden thaw can lead to avalanches or floods, the Guardian editorial warned. Carbon Brief cited a Times report that said the thaw in Europe has resulted in a big drop in wholesale gas prices, with lower demand helping the continent keep its storage plants well stocked.

Ocean heat content hits record high, fourth time in  a row: Study 

A new study shows ocean “heat content” has hit a record high in 2022, for the fourth year in a row, in a “clear indication of continued global warming”, reported Axios. The news portal quoted the study co-author Kevin Trenberth of the National Center for Atmospheric Research who wrote that warm waters in the Indian Ocean helped lead to both record heat in Pakistan and parts of India last year, as well as the deadly flooding that affected much of Pakistan in the late summer. Similarly, the ongoing atmospheric river events in California are being made worse by warm ocean temperatures in parts of the Pacific Ocean, Trenberth told Axios via email.” 

Canada’s peatland permafrost along the coastline have been underestimated: Study

Peatland permafrost in Canada’s northeastern region are grossly underestimated on the assumption that the permafrost is “largely absent” from the coastline, found a new study. By combining satellite imagery with field observations, researchers identified wetland areas that potentially contain permafrost peatland. They found more than 1,000 sites classified as “likely” candidates, “mostly” concentrated within about 22 kilometres of the coast. The researchers wrote that this survey is the “first dedicated peatland permafrost inventory for Labrador” and showed the necessity of revisiting previous estimates of permafrost extent in the region.

About The Author