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Snow Absence in Kashmir and Ladakh This Winter

Context:

One of Kashmir’s main winter tourism attractions, Gulmarg, has been bereft of snow this season. This has led to a plunge in the flow of tourists and severely hitting the business of ski resorts.

Relevance:

GS I: Geography

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Dry Winter in Jammu & Kashmir: Causes and Implications
  2. Impacts of Dry Winter
  3. Normal Climatic Conditions: The Pacific Ocean Influence
  4. El Nino and La Nina

Dry Winter in Jammu & Kashmir: Causes and Implications

Existing Pattern:

  • Traditionally, Jammu and Kashmir, including Ladakh, experience winter precipitation in the form of snowfall.
  • Normal snowfall patterns include the first snowfall in the first half of December continuing through most of January.

Rainfall Deficit:

  • Unusual dry conditions observed this winter, with no significant rains or snowfall.
  • Jammu and Kashmir witnessed an 80% rainfall deficit in December and a 100% deficit (no rain) in January.

Reasons behind the Dry Winter:

  • Decreasing snowfall trend attributed to a decline in western disturbance events and rising temperatures, indicative of climate change.
  • The prevailing El Niño event in the eastern Pacific Ocean considered an additional factor influencing this year’s conditions.
  • Western disturbances, crucial for winter precipitation, have been decreasing, with only a few feeble events this season.

Rising Temperatures:

  • Increasing temperatures, especially in upper elevation areas, contribute to the decline in snowfall.
  • Srinagar temperatures sometimes comparable to or even higher than Delhi, affecting the region’s winter climate.

El Niño Impact:

  • Persisting El Niño has disrupted global atmospheric circulation, potentially contributing to the precipitation deficit in the region.

Impacts of Dry Winter:

Long-term Implications:

  • Reduced hydroelectricity generation due to less snowfall.
  • Increased rate of glacier melting.
  • Adverse effects on drinking water supply with scanty snowfall leading to minimal groundwater recharge.

Short-term Implications:

  • Higher risk of forest fires, agricultural drought, and reduced crop production during a dry spell.
  • Early spring onset can negatively impact crop yields, especially for winter crops like horticulture.
  • Critical for the local economy, a lack of snowfall affects yields of apples and saffron, impacting livelihoods.

Normal Climatic Conditions: The Pacific Ocean Influence

Ocean Temperature and Weather:

  • Weather patterns are significantly influenced by ocean temperatures, where warmer oceans lead to increased cloud formation and rainfall.
  • The Pacific Ocean, especially near the equator, experiences elevated temperatures due to the Sun.

Normal Atmospheric Circulation:

  • Under typical conditions, a low-pressure system forms in northern Australia and Indonesia, while a high-pressure system develops off the coast of Peru.
  • This results in strong trade winds blowing from east to west over the Pacific, transporting warm surface waters westward.
  • Convective storms, including thunderstorms, are common over Indonesia and coastal Australia.

El Nino and La Nina

Frequency and Duration:

  • El Nino and La Nina are opposing climate trends, deviating from normal conditions and lasting nine to twelve months, with potential extensions.
  • These events occur irregularly, every two to seven years on average, with El Nino being more frequent than La Nina.
  • Collectively referred to as the El Nino-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) cycle by scientists.

El Nino – Warm Phase:

  • El Nino is characterized by a band of warmer water spreading from west to east in the equatorial Pacific Ocean.
  • The warm phase disrupts normal atmospheric patterns, impacting global weather, ecosystems, and economics.

La Nina – Cold Phase:

  • La Nina involves a band of cooler water spreading east-west in the equatorial Pacific Ocean.
  • The cold phase also influences global weather, ecosystems, and economic factors, but in contrasting ways to El Nino.

Global Effects:

  • Both El Nino and La Nina have far-reaching effects on weather patterns, wildfires, ecosystems, and economies worldwide.
  • These climate phenomena play a crucial role in shaping the variability and unpredictability of weather events on a global scale.

-Source: Indian Express


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