Kashmir is undergoing through rough dry patch in terms of precipitation as the region has been snowless for quite some time now. The complete absence of precipitation has turned the faces of people gloomy. The people have even resorted to special congregation prayers in large numbers for divine intervention to bring rain and snow.
The scant snowfall, exacerbated by warmer temperatures is poised to have adverse ecological effects. Even if there is substantial snow fall in the upcoming months, it might be insufficient to compensate for the existing deficit. The dwindling snow accumulation raises concerns about reduced runoff contributing to diminished water flow into rivers and streams crucial for agriculture. The current dry winter has intensified upcoming challenges of crop failure, livestock loss, fodder shortage and the threat of disasters as is being witnessed in the Rajouri region in terms of forest fires thereby inflicting psychological distress.
This is one of the driest spells in the region and the extreme drought like conditions are inevitable in the upcoming summer. Quite unusual, this year it has not snowed even during the Chill-i-kalan period (21st of December to 31st of January) and the day temperature even touched 16 degrees Celsius in the month of January which was previously unheard from this region. During normal times, mountains and glaciers get covered with snow and this ensures water supply throughout the year.
Causes and futuristic consequences
The underlying cause of this unusual weather pattern is attributed to global heating, a vital component of the climate crisis, influencing La Nina – El Nino conditions and disrupting the critical ‘western disturbance’. Meteorological experts have linked this anomaly to the climatic phenomena known as EL Nino which has led to significant reductions in snow and rain in the region. El Nino, characterized by the warming of sea surface temperatures in the central and eastern pacific ocean, has far reaching effects on global weather patterns, including those that govern precipitation in Himalayan region. In Kashmir, the implications of El Nino are visible as prolonged dry spells, mild winters and reduced snow fall. Experts warn that the valley is likely to experience frequent and extended droughts in the future, with climate change indicators becoming increasingly evident in the region. The north west plains including Punjab, Haryana and Delhi–NCR are witnessed severe cold wave and foggy conditions over an extended period of time and the people from these regions while expressing their ordeal have never experienced such severe cold for such a prolonged period of time. Drawing a connect between western disturbances and El Nino, climate scientist Raghu Murtugudde from the Indian Institute of Technology, Mumbai said that Western disturbances have had a trend for a while, so the low precipitation is consistent with that (trend). During an El Nino, the cold winds come from the northwest and the cold temperature remains over northern and north-central India. This means, dry cold conditions and thus less precipitation. On an average, India receives four to six intense western disturbances each month between December and March. Except for a one-off event, December has no western disturbance and there is no sign of it till the end of third week of January.
The picturesque valley of Kashmir, renowned for its winter snow and skiing sports, is facing an unusually dry spell this winter season. In fact Kashmir valley has reported a staggering 79% rainfall deficit this winter and the much anticipated snowfall is yet to happen. Experts are of the opinion that snow-less winter will have a disastrous impact on the territory’s economy as the tourism sector nearly contributes 7% of Jammu and Kashmir’s GDP. Besides it will badly hit the agrarian economy especially the horticulture sector in ensuing season. The impact on local agriculture is already being felt, with saffron farmers in Kashmir suffering due to the shifting weather patterns. The prolonged dry spell has taken a heavy toll on their crops, highlighting the vulnerability of traditional farming practices to climatic disruptions. The valley of Kashmir is a fragile and sensitive ecosystem and is highly vulnerable to even slightest fluctuations attributed to climate change.
It is absolute clear that the extreme weather events are not localized or confined to a particular region, country or continent, they are wide spread in occurrence and are literally engulfing every nook and corner of the globe irrespective of the geographical coordinates. The catastrophic consequences of adverse climate change will severely dent the human existence if immediate mitigation measures are not put in place with sound and constructive planning. These extreme weather events serve as a grim reminder of the urgent need to address climate change. The interconnectedness of climate change impacts on both local and global scales underscores the necessity of immediate action. As the world faces the consequences of rising temperature and more frequent extreme weather events , the imperative to curb green house gas emissions and implement adaptive measures has never been more critical.
Dr. Mushtaq Rather, Educator Mattan Anantnag.