In a departure from its usual winter spectacle, the famed Kashmir Valley is experiencing an unusual dry spell, leaving Gulmarg, a renowned tourist destination celebrated for its snow-covered slopes, stark and barren. December has witnessed a staggering 79% rainfall deficit, raising concerns among locals and tourists alike.
Meteorological experts attribute this anomaly to the climatic phenomenon known as El Nino, characterized by elevated sea surface temperatures in the central and eastern Pacific Ocean. El Nino has far-reaching effects on global weather patterns, including the precipitation dynamics in Kashmir.
Mukhtar Ahmad, Director of the Kashmir Meteorological Centre, expressed concern, stating, “The whole of December and the first week of January has been dry.” The forecast does not offer much optimism either, with predictions indicating that dry weather conditions will persist until at least January 12. Ahmad adds, “There are no major precipitation chances in the coming days. The weather may remain dry till noon of January 16.”
The absence of early snowfall, a recurring pattern over the past few years, is particularly noticeable this year. El Nino’s influence, persistent since November, is expected to continue into the following month, disrupting the usual climatic rhythms of the valley.
How Does El Nino Affect Weather? El Nino causes the Pacific jet stream to shift southward and extend further east, resulting in wetter conditions in the Southern US and drier, warmer conditions in the North. This shift also impacts marine life off the Pacific coast.
In Southeast Asia, El Nino typically leads to drier-than-average rainfall conditions, especially during December to February, accompanied by warmer temperatures. In Kashmir, the consequences manifest as prolonged dry spells, mild winters, and reduced snowfall. Experts warn of more frequent and extended droughts in the future, as climate change indicators become increasingly evident in the region.
The impact on local agriculture is already apparent, with saffron farmers in Kashmir suffering due to shifting weather patterns. Prolonged dry conditions have taken a toll on their crops, underscoring the vulnerability of traditional farming practices to climatic disruptions.