L.For the past week I’ve been doing research on snowfall in India. I wanted to understand when and how much snow we can expect on our hikes this year.
I spoke to Akshay Deoras, a meteorologist who has been a forecaster for 10 years. He is also a researcher and speaker and is currently doing his PhD in the Department of Meteorology at the University of Reading in the UK.
In a long interview we talked about winter and snow in India. He was a treasure trove of information.
What he told me surprised me.
Did you know that there is no official record of snowfall in India?
“There are no detailed and publicly available data for snowfall in India,” says Akshay Deoras. “Monsoon is considered the most important season in India. Hence, weather conditions in our country usually revolve around the monsoons. What we consider summer (March-May) is officially before the monsoon, and early winter (October-December) is officially after the monsoon. Only January and February are considered winter, but there is hardly any data on winter snow, ”he says.
“So if you ask me to compare the snowfall in India for the past 15 years, it’s almost impossible. We cannot tell whether the snow has increased or decreased. That’s why it’s so difficult to predict snowfall, ”he adds.
Where does India snowfall come from?
“Winter in India is determined by the Western Disturbances (WDs). A WD is a weather system that originated outside the tropics, mainly around the Mediterranean, Caspian and Black Sea regions.
“As this is a low pressure region, it absorbs moisture when it comes to India (e.g. from the Arabian Sea). This leads to cloud cover, precipitation and even snowfall in India.
“It usually hits Jammu and Kashmir first, causing heavy rainfall there, followed by rainfall in other parts of northern India. Sometimes the effects of western disturbance reach central India in spring, where severe weather outbreaks such as hailstorms occur, ”says Akshay.
These western disturbances are carried by the jet currents (strong air currents) that are present in the earth’s atmosphere. The jet streams usually travel from west to east (which is why they are also called Westerlies). This explains why the WDs are coming to India from the European region.
A preview of a poster by Akshay and his team on understanding winter rainfall in northwest India. Click here to see the full version of the poster. More information is available at http://www.akshaydeoras.com
Interestingly, the western disturbances occur not only in winter, but throughout the year. However, their frequencies differ.
Indiahikes founder Arjun Majumdar adds, “We typically see between 4 and 6 western faults in a winter. And we’ve been observing this pattern for many years, ”he says.
Arjun’s statement is further clarified by a research paper published on ResearchGate by Prof. AP Dimri from JNU. It clarifies that around four to six WDs occur during the winter months from November to March. It adds that the annual frequency of snowstorms is directly related to the frequency of WDs.
“To make it simple, more WDs means more rainfall, which is the case in winter,” says Akshay.
So it is not wrong to conclude that the western disturbances and the Indian winter are almost synonymous.
When does winter start in India?
Akshay believes that winter in India begins in November, although the “official” winter is only considered in January and February.
We were very impressed, because even at Indiahikes we consider November and the first half of December to be early winter.
Our co-founder Sandhya UC says: “Starting in November we will experience extremely cold winds in the mountains. Every morning there is a layer of frost. This usually melts away within an hour. But after sunset it gets cold like winter, minus the snow. We therefore ask all our hikers to wear at least 5 warm layers in November and early December. “
Akshay Deoras has a point to add to this.
“A lot of people think the WD is just bringing rain and snow to India. But it also brings very cold winds, which lead to a sharp drop in minimum temperatures. It is actually the only source of winter rainfall in northern India, ”he says.
Can snowfall be predicted in a particular year?
“Our country’s models are not equipped to accurately predict rain and snow.” Summer, on the other hand, is easier to predict.
“Think of a VGA camera and an iPhone camera. The weather and climate models of our country (and some other global organizations) can only view rain and snow in the Himalayas like a VGA camera. Since the weather in the hills varies very quickly, we need higher resolution products that are as sharp as the iPhone images! ” he says.
In addition, there is a lack of understanding of how the Himalayan mountains themselves affect the weather. “All of this makes it really difficult to predict snowfall in the Himalayas. It’s best to stick to ground reports – what people see in the mountains. “
If you want to hike in the snow …
There are two articles that you should read on our website.
In the past few years we have seen that we can always count on those three months to see snow! There may be one-off circumstances with no snow, but even if that happens, the mountains will never disappoint. 🙂
Make sure to share this article with fellow trekkers. Write comments if you have any questions!