Declining snowfall pattern in Kashmir alarming: Experts

Declining snowfall pattern in Kashmir alarming: Experts

On an average, Shamasbari, Pir Panjal and the Greater Himalayan ranges receive about 10.0 mm, 7.5 mm and 5.50 mm of snowfall respectively during the period from November to April.

Declining snowfall pattern particularly in Kashmir coupled with increasing temperature in winter has worried experts who blame climate change and high concentration of black carbon near Valley glaciers for the phenomenon.  

With weather remaining mostly dry during the ChilaiKalan- the coldest period of winter- experts on the basis of scientific studies said there is possibility of frequent snowless winters in next several decades mostly in the plains of Kashmir hitting vital economic sectors.

“Snowless ChilaiKalan is not a new phenomenon in Kashmir, however depleting and erratic pattern of snowfall during the last few decades in Kashmir is worrisome and alarming,” Prof Shakil A Romshoo, Head, Department of Earth Sciences, Kashmir University, told Greater Kashmir.

Surrounded by mountains, Kashmir is mostly dependent on glaciers and snow melt water for drinking and irrigation needs. “The declining snow pattern and rising temperatures will have adverse consequences on public health, tourism and other important sectors including water and power generation resources in coming years,” he said.

Elaborating, he said Kashmir had snowless ChilaiKalans for many years in 1980 to 1990. “For past five-six decades, Kashmir has been experiencing erratic and declining snowfall in plains, however the mountainous regions still receive quite a good amount of snowfall during the winter season,” he said.

He said that on an average, Shamasbari, Pir Panjal and the Greater Himalayan ranges receive about 10.0 mm, 7.5 mm and 5.50 mm of snowfall respectively during the period from November to April.

“This year these mountain ranges received snowfall two to three times till date due to the Western Disturbances that are active in the valley during the winter season. However, looking at the significant declining snowfall trends for last five-six decades and the climate change projections for the next 100 years over Kashmir, it is more probable that we might have more frequent snowless ChilaiKalans in the plains of Kashmir a few decades from now registering 30-50 percent of decline in the snow in winter,” he said.

Romshoo, who has been undertaking extensive scientific studies on climate change, said the high concentration of particulate matter in air over Kashmir particularly black carbon during autumn and winter months might have exacerbated the problem.

“This is partly responsible for almost snowless ChilaiKalan in Srinagar and other adjoining areas of the Valley this year which received less than 1 mm snowfall till date this year. The high radiative force of the black carbon concentration over Kashmir might be one of the important factors responsible for high glacier recession and the declining snowfall trends over the valley,” he said.

“The concentration of black carbon near Kashmir’s glaciers observed during our scientific studies is quite high compared to the western Himalayan glaciers,” he said.

One of the largest glaciers of Kashmir Himalayas, Kolhai, has shrunk over 18 percent during past three decades due to unprecedented increase in temperature, deforestation, increased human activity near the glacier and high levels of pollution caused by the emission of greenhouse gases by diesel vehicles and cement plants.

He said the minimum temperature in winter in Kashmir has shown a significant increase affecting the form of precipitation in the region. The lowest minimum temperature recorded this ChilaiKalan was minus 5.4 on January 2 while the highest remained at 12.7 degree Celsius on January 18 and January 27.

“Surprisingly, Srinagar city shows quite high concentration of particulate matter during these two seasons (Winter and Autumn) compared to many other Indian cities of the sample size and population,” he said.

He said the high concentration of black carbon, particularly during the autumn and winter months in Kashmir is attributed to the burning of twigs, leaves for charcoal making, huge consumption of coal and wood during these months for heating, emissions from the brick kilns and burgeoning traffic on roads in the Valley.