Why it's been a warm winter this year

Despite our huge advances in technology and computer-generated weather models, we understand so little.

 |  2-minute read |   04-01-2017
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In the last week of November itself, the venerable India Meteorological Department had predicted that winter will be mild this year. The Met office said temperatures in the winter months will rise by 0.5 to 1 degrees Celsius.

Why it will be so remains a mystery, as weak La Nina conditions prevailed in the Pacific Ocean, which is usually seen as a sign of severe winter over northern India.

Global warming may be one of the culprits.

The signs were there for the previous couple of years, says the Met, but El Nino was the primary culprit then. Confusing?

I am afraid it is. It only shows that despite our huge advances in technology and computer generated weather models, we understand so little of it.

The next factor responsible may be the lack of rainfall in the winter months. Rainfall usually helps the winter chill to "set in" over northern India. Whenever a strong western disturbance approaches the western Himalayas, areas like Punjab, Delhi and Haryana witness some rainfall. There is some good news as the weatherman is forecasting a western disturbance in the coming week.

winter-embed_010417022917.jpg Global warming may be one of the culprits. (Photo: India Today)

Delhi, parts of north-western Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Haryana may get light to moderate rains in the next three to five days. If it happens, then it will be the first spell of winter rainfall over the northern plains. It is expected to bring down the maximum and minimum temperatures over these areas and winter will expectedly make a comeback.

Further from home, the Arctic has seen unusually high temperatures. One reading in December was around 0 degrees, which is more than 15-20 degree warmer than the average temperature for the corresponding period in years.

Another unusual phenomena being noted is that high temperatures in the Arctic are corresponding with extremely cold snaps over Siberia. Scientists call this phenomena "Warm Arctic Cold Continents" - a sometimes contentious term, little understood, but with grave implications, if true.

The model is complicated but generally entails the Poles getting warmer and the mid-latitudes getting colder - Siberia, parts of the US, Europe and northern Asia.

As with every hypothesis, there are two sides of a debate. Global warming is blamed by a group while the other argues that it is a cyclic event when Arctic literally sheds its snow.

However, even with scientific models it is difficult to know whether it is a normal trend that we are seeing for the past decade or the result of human interventions.

Also read: Why winters are special in north India

Writer

Arindam De Arindam De @arindamde01

The writer is journalist working with India Today.

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