MeT fails to predict snowfall

While Kashmir received a fresh spell of light snowfall on Saturday resulting in 21 flight cancellations at Srinagar Airport, the wet-spell occurred even as the Meteorological Department in its latest forecast had said that weather in Jammu and Kashmir will remain “mainly dry” till January 14. As parts of the Valley, especially central and south Kashmir received 3 to 7 inches of snowfall, it surprised many who woke up to a fresh blanket of snow.

The Valley received a heavy snowfall between January 3 and 5, which resulted in closure of the 270-kilometre Srinagar-Jammu National Highway and suspension of flights at the Srinagar Airport for four days.

However, while people continue to suffer due to problems arising out of the recent snowfall, they were caught unaware by the snowfall on Saturday affecting their travel and other plans.

People on Saturday took to social media and criticised the MeT department for not issuing prior weather advisory regarding the snowfall. It may be recalled that on January 6, in its daily weather bulletin, the MeT had said that weather till January 14 will remain “mainly dry”. The information disseminated by Met on platforms such as WhatsApp is widely used by media houses and administration in order to be alert for inclement weather which was not the case for Saturday’s snowfall.

When contacted, Director MeT, Sonam Lotus said the department makes all “possible efforts” for “accurate” weather forecasts adding that “weather in this region is dynamic and keeps on changing”. Lotus said the department has enough manpower but there is a need for a “dedicated weather model for J&K” for weather observations, he added.

“Upgradation is a continuous process and we do need a dedicated weather model for J&K on which we can work. Although we have satellite observations, I will take up with my higher authorities in IMD that there is a need for a specific weather model for J&K,” Lotus said.

“We are using weather models developed by reputed institutions such as Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM) Pune and National Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasting (NCMRWF) but a dedicated weather model for J&K will help make weather predictions more accurate,” Lotus said.

Lotus said installation of state-of-the-art Doppler weather radar is underway in Jammu, which will be operational by next month and will “make weather forecasts more accurate”. He said the India Meteorological Department (IMD) will also be installing a Doppler weather radar at Banihal Top for more “accurate weather forecasts” but added that “this project may take time”.

“So far we have been able to predict all high-impact severe weather changes such as snowfall but have missed out at times. It is challenging to get 100 per cent accurate weather in a region where weather remains highly unpredictable. 70-80 per cent of our weather forecasts are accurate and since technology has come a long way we are hoping for an up-gradation of our systems to make accurate weather observations,” Lotus said.

21 flights cancelled at Srinagar Airport:

The fresh spell of light snowfall on Saturday led to cancellation of 21 flights at the Srinagar International Airport. Director Airport, Santosh Dhoke, said the snow on the runway and poor visibility lead to flight cancellations. “The flight operations resumed at 2:15 pm but only 6 flights could operate,” Dhoke said. Flight operations had been suspended for four consecutive days earlier this week from January 3 to 6 due to heavy snowfall. Even as flight operations resumed on January 7 but massive traffic jams on Airport road had resulted in a chaos as several passengers who couldn’t reach the airport on time missed their flights.

Temperatures:

Kashmir Valley on Friday night recorded a sharp fall in temperatures as summer capital Srinagar recorded minus 4 degrees Celsius while ski-resort Gulmarg recorded minus 10 degrees. Pahalgam in south Kashmir recorded minus 5.1 degrees and Qazigund recorded minus 2.8 degrees on Friday night. Kashmir is currently under the grip of ‘Chillai-Kalan’ – the 40-day harshest winter period when a cold wave grips the region and the temperature drops considerably leading to the freezing of water bodies including the famous Dal Lake as well as the water supply lines in several parts of the valley.

The chances of snowfall are the most frequent and maximum during this period and most areas, especially in the higher reaches, receive heavy snowfall.