Snow in the western Himalayas during the first half of the ongoing winter season has been about 20 per cent above the long period average, which would favourably impact the water situation in the coming months.
'Our mid-winter assessment released this month reveals that the snowfall received from November 2019 to January 2020 has been the highest in the past 30 years,' said Mr.Naresh Kumar, Director, Snow and Avalanche Studies Establishment (SASE).
'Our forecast is that snowfall in the Himalayas during February to April would be good and is expected to be on the higher side of normal if not excess, though there could be a brief spell of relatively low precipitation in March,' he added.
The winter season over the Himalayas officially lasts from November to April and some places in the higher reaches experience snow even in subsequent months. With a network of observatories and weather stations located in the Himalayas, SASE, a laboratory of the Defence Research and Development Organisation, is involved in the study of snow physics, avalanche forecast and hazard mitigation and allied research in cryosphere.
According to SASE data, during the past 30 years, snowfall over the Himalayas was lower than the long period average on 16 occasions and above average on 14 occasions. The past decade has been particularly disappointing, with the snowfall being below normal in eight winters since 2009-10.
Strong El Nino in the Eastern Pacific Ocean during 2019 favoured significant increase in snowfall during the current winter season over western and central Himalayas. As many as 11 western disturbances associated with snowfall, which originate over the Mediterranean and move East, were recorded over the Himalayas during November to January.
The highest snowfall recorded by SASE observatories in the region was at Dhundi in Himachal Pradesh, which received 639 cm during the past three months, while the lowest precipitation during this period was at Drass, said to be the second coldest inhabited place on Earth, which received 123 cm.
'Increased snowfall has also resulted in more casualties as the number of incidents is directly proportional to the amount of snow. There have reportedly been 23 casualties, including Army personnel as well as civilians. While some were due to avalanches, others were due to various other snow-related causes,' Mr. Naresh Kumar said.
In the lower reaches and plains, rains have also been in excess during the first month of the year. According to the India Meteorological Department, rains in Punjab and Haryana have been 119 per cent and 62 per cent above normal, respectively, while in Jammu and Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh rains were 52 per cent and 38 per cent above normal, respectively.