Over 200 dead and increasing
public demands to declare cold as natural calamity and for avoidance of
elections during winter are just few of the many warning symptoms of India's
failure to adjust to a rapidly cooling world. We provide an overview to some of
the chaos this creates:
New Delhi: Republic Parade to be affected by
If you were flying in or out of Delhi you couldn't
have chosen a worst time of the year to do so.
Near zero visibility, hour-long closures of air space for Republic Day
practice and VIP movements led to the season’s worst disruptions at Indira
Gandhi International airport yesterday. Almost 300 flights were delayed by 2-8
hours while 28 were canceled and 19 diverted, as departures were held up
completely between 7am and 9am, the peak operation time for domestic flights.
The Republic Day
(26th January) preparations in New Delhi
have been hit by heavy fog and cold. But school children, adults
and the military braved intense cold wave and fog to rehearse for the Republic
Day parade for more than a month. Their determination may go in vain as the
weather gods are sending the western disturbance, mercifully milder, the third
for the month to hit India tomorrow. The western disturbance as an upper air
cyclonic circulation now centers over northeast Afghanistan and adjoining
Pakistan, persists and now extends upto 4.5 kms a.s.l. The cyclonic circulation
over Haryana and adjoining west Uttar Pradesh also persists and now extends
upto 3.6 kms a.s.l. The above two system are forecasted to move north-eastwards
by the Indian Met office.
The next western
disturbance’s arrival phase will, however, lift minimum (night) temperatures a
bit. But ground frost has been forecast for this period in the wake of the
cold, dense air sinking to the ground level after a prevailing western
disturbance has passed to the east. It will take the ascending motion of at the
vanguard of the incoming western disturbance to replace the cold air. Fog
conditions should therefore reduce by Sunday morning. Clear sky will keep the
night temperatures will be around 5-6 deg C during the weekend. But Delhi may
face intense cold and fog from Republic Day affecting the parade. If so, this
would be the first time in several decades!
Wave to affect polling turnout?
This hill state is to go to
polls on 30th January. Most of the political parties including the
incumbent BJP government have already expressed reservations to the election
commission about the January-end polling. "We communicated to the commission but were told that the commission has
studied the winter cycle of the last fifty years," Khanduri, the
state's chief minister said. With less than ten days left for the polling
campaigning is yet to pick up in the hills of Uttarakhand even the lower ranges
of the Shivaliks have been snowing, forcing both the candidates and public
There are 9744 polling
booths in Uttarakhand and a petition in the Supreme Court last week had urged
postponement of the elections as nearly 30 per cent of these booths are in snow
bound areas. There are even places like Harsil in Uttarkashi district where the
polling parties have to carry voting machines and their luggage on mules and
horses and walk for days to conduct elections. The court refused to interfere;
the commission is hopeful that the weather would clear up by the polling date.
Chief Electoral Officer, Uttarakhand Radha Raturi told The Hindu, "We have
information that after January 23 weather will improve, so polling on the 30th
should not be a problem." In
constituencies spread over vast hilly terrain where margins of victory at times
are a few hundred votes, a low voter turnout can affect the outcome of polls
and political parties are obviously worried.
While states like
Uttarakhand may get a slight relieve from fog and cold conditions from the 23rd,
this would most likely be a temporary reprieve, as the effects of the next
western disturbance will bring back the cold, snow and fog from around the 25th which would throw a spanner in the smooth conduct of the polls in the state on
January 30th. The last round of assembly polls demonstrated voter
turnout around 80%. This time, in states like Uttarakhand, we may see turnout
not more than 60%. How low it gets, would be interesting. If it falls to 30%
levels, then the Election Commission may attract alot of flak to continue the
scheduled polls despite public opposition to this decision.
Rajasthan: Demands for Cold
Wave inclusion as a Natural Calamity increases
Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot
wrote to Home Minister P Chidambaram, demanding inclusion of frost and cold
wave in the category of natural calamity. He said that if cold wave and frost
are included in the category of natural calamity, it will help farmers in
getting compensation for their damaged crops. The state opposition party, the
BJP too demanded change of norms by the Centre and inclusion of cold wave and
ground frost in the disaster list. BJP's Rajasthan unit office bearers, MPs and
MLAs marched towards the Raj Bhavan (governor’s residence) and submitted a
memorandum to the Governor S K Singh to this effect. "We have demanded that the Central government should amend its
disaster list and include cold wave and ground frost in it," a BJP
Rajasthan reeled under
intense cold as Mount Abu, the state’s only hill station, experiencing a
chilling night at -2.2°C. Dabok was also cold at 3.2 degree Celsius.
Vanasthali, Sawaimadhopur, Pilani and Bundi recorded a minimum of 3.4, 4.8, 5.5
and 5.8 degree Celsius respectively while other parts of the state recorded
night temperatures in the range of 6.4 degree Celsius to 10.5 degree Celsius.
South India: Reprieve from Cold Wave maybe
Last week’s cold wave in
South India that plunged temperatures to 100 year lows in many areas may have been
dismissed a freak by the Indian Met office. Though temperatures are rising
again, this can radically change after the 25th of this month. According
to the blog Indian
strong anti-cyclone is expected to form over N-E Andhra on 22-Jan... which will
fan more N-westerlies towards South. (see map on left). Anti-cyclones
are formed when clear, dry air masses cool from a loss of infrared radiation,
while little sunlight is absorbed to offset that infrared cooling.
As long as the anti-cyclone
persists and remains strong, this could bring back cold wave conditions after
26th January to South India. This will however lead to
a marked rise in min and max temp in Central India and min temp can settle
close to 20C as against the persisting ~10C. Mango production is expected to take a
So why is
South Asia experiencing a prolonged & harsh winter?
The colder than normal, if
not harsh winter in South Asia can be attributed to the combined effect of La
Niña and the Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD), oceanic processes in the Central
Pacific and Indian Ocean, respectively. Both factors tend to draw the cold air
of higher latitudes to the tropical and sub-tropical Asia.
La Niña conditions occur
when eastern equatorial Pacific water becomes colder than normal. It is the
reverse of El Niño, and sends such a strong signal that this single event can
shatter the weather pattern all over the globe. Now the Central Pacific water
is more than 1C colder than normal.
La Niña appeared to have peaked this month with NIÑO3.4 values at 0.8 deg C and
Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) value at +12.8. The La Niña has started to markedly
weaken with most models suggesting an end of the event during the coming autumn
But as the late John Daly, a great among climatologists, observed, the Southern Oscillation is the primary driver of
year-to-year global temperature, with a 6 to 9 month lag time. Accordingly,
while the La Niña has peaked and weakening, its impact on global
temperature is just starting to kick in. We are now seeing the La Niña effect
beginning to be the prime driver of winter in the Northern Hemisphere. Winter
had been mild within the mid-latitudes till mid January because Arctic Oscillation
(AO) and its cousin North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) had been in their positive
phases. But a pattern change has taken place with winter intensifying
despite the AO and NAO remaining largely positive as seen below as the La Niña is beginning to swamp their effect :
Joe D'Aleo reports:
"The Northern Hemisphere came hard out of the box early with well above
normal snow. Then a strng [polar vortex took over and preventing the snow from
expanding very far into the lower 48 and west into Europe. A breakdown of that
vortex is underway and snow has started to fall in the northern US and in
Europe. Here is the current snowpack."
The AMSU satellite data besides
shows that in trapping hot spot itself - 400mb or 25,000 feet levels - the
atmosphere is at its coldest for the entire decade! Temperatures in the
sub-surface of the eastern tropical Pacific have continued to cool over the
past two weeks. The map for the 5 days ending 17 January shows the volume of
water in the sub-surface of the eastern tropical Pacific more than 4 °C
cooler than usual for this time of the year. With the atmosphere and sea
surface temperatures freezing cold, it is a matter of time land masses follow.
IOD on the other hand
is a seesaw like temperature pattern of the eastern and western Indian Ocean
with a respective warmer and colder zone. IOD was in negative phase till last
week but the index has since then switched to neutral - the index value for the
week ending 15 January was −0.1. The model ensemble mean indicate that it would rebound slightly before turning
weakly negative next month, progressively strengthening right through September. This means the beginning to the end to East African drought!
The Indian Ocean Dipole
(IOD) is the leading mode of precipitation in the Indian monsoon region in the
absence of the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) ENSO variability. It is a
measure of the east-west heat distribution across this ocean. Accordingly, the
South West Monsoon of South Asia is driven, at least in a big part, by heat
energy entering the atmosphere from the Indian Ocean. Therefore, it should
follow that the behavior of the South West Monsoon, including distribution and
amount of rainfall, would largely hinge upon the temperature state of the
Indian Ocean (the IOD). A negative Dipole is more likely to concurrent a La Niña
than an El Niño and this year is an example. The sea surface temperatures
(SSTs) of Central Pacific model ensemble mean indicate that La Niña values should
last till September this year.
A positive IOD represents
warming anomalies to the west of equatorial Indian Ocean relative to the east.
It boosts a concurrent Indian monsoon. The IOD is negative when the western
Indian Ocean has below-normal temperatures concurrent with an eastern Indian
Ocean that is warmer than normal. The negative IOD normally tends to hinder the
SW Monsoon. So as the IOD slips into its weakly negative phase, normally during
the austral winter, rains over Indonesia and Australia are expected to be above
normal while the Indian sub-continent experiences a weaker summer monsoon.
However, 2012 should be an
abnormal year since it has a negative IOD occurring concurrent with the La Niña
which is relatively a rare event as seen in the above table - occurring at a frequency
of around 7 years out of every 100 years.
To get an insight what kind
of rainfall we could get for years where La Niña overlapped a negative IOD we
can check out the monsoon data provided by the IMD website (here). What
we find the La Niña effect swamps those of a negative IOD, each and every year classified
within this category as tabulated below:
What is more, in most of
these years, the monsoon brought massive floods. Since weather events tend to repeat
itself in cycles, we can expect above average monsoons accompanied by floods this
The cold wave we experienced
so far in India can be considered just an appetizer. The main course of the
cold wave will be served from now on viz. it is poised to intensify; death toll
will spike and people’s miseries will increase.
Winter can be expected to
stay at least until March, if not beyond it. "During this winter,
northern part of the country is likely to be below normal. So, we may expect
that at least in the extreme north, the temperature should be below normal up
to end of February and then by March and all it should reach to a normal
situation," said Director of Forecasting Division, Pune Weather
Department, Dr. D. S. Pai.
The Election Commission
would end up probably vindicated for sticking to their decision not to change
the 30th January poll date of Uttarakhand. This is because the state
is likely to face a more intensified cold wave during February.
Though the IOD would turn
negative shortly, India is most likely to receive above average monsoons
enabling a bumper harvest with food commodity prices continuing to soften
The speculation whether it
would snow in New Delhi this season would remain alive. Due to increased
convection, localized precipitation events can occur producing about 15-20%
above normal precipitation during February and March. A snow in New Delhi
headquartering warmists like the IPCC chairperson, Rajendra Pachauri; India’s
premier environmental NGO, Centre for Science & Environment (CSE); WWF;
Oxfam; ActionAid; ChristianAid etc would be a symbolic victory for the climate
sceptic community in India. February may just give sceptics the icing in the
cake - the battle we are winning already!
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