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Is early snowfall in Kashmir a thing of beauty, or an indicator of climate change?

On October 23 2021, Srinagar recorded the coldest October in 39 years, with similar conditions in other parts of Kashmir.

Poorva Joshi Edited by: Poorva Joshi @poorvajoshi1424
Srinagar Published on: October 30, 2021 20:46 IST
kashmir snowfall climate change
Image Source : PTI

Baramulla: Tourists play with snow during the seasons first snowfall at a ski resort at Gulmarg

With the first snowfall greeting the state of Jammu & Kashmir, the onset of an evidently chilly winter has begun. While it makes up for picturesque and scenic views, is it really a thing of beauty? 

While the term 'global warming' literally indicates the globe warming up, early snowfall remains a strong indicator of it. As compared to the years 2019 and 2020, snowfall came in quite early in Kashmir this year, probably making way for a similar pattern in other hilly areas.

On October 23 2021, Srinagar recorded the coldest October in 39 years, with similar conditions in other parts of Kashmir. This was 12 days after the state received its first snowfall, which was on October 11 this year. Outer reaches of Jammu and Kashmir received the season’s first snowfall while rains lashed other parts of the region and plunged the mercury. India Meteorological Department said a western disturbance and winds laden with moisture from the Mediterranean led to the rains in the plains and snow in the mountains of the region.

Did snowfall knock Kashmir early this year?

This year, the first snowfall in Kashmir countered a pattern that was being followed for the past three years. In 2018, snow stepped inside the state on November 3. It was slightly delayed the following year in 2019, when it fell on November 7. This got further delayed the next year in 2020, when it came on November 23. 

However this year, the first snowfall in Kashmir knocked as early as October 11. While it did make up for some scenic pictures, from the perspective of climate change and life disruptions among locals, it was not so scenic. 

Effects of early snowfall on local life

Every year, hilly areas experience heavy snow during winters which halt the daily life of the locals. Owing to last year's aftermath of snow and winter storms caused widespread damages in Kashmir. The Jammu-Srinagar highway, the only viable road that connects Kashmir with the country, reopened after seven days on January 10 this year. On the same day, LG Manoj Sinha had declared J&K's snowfall a 'natural calamity'. Operations at Srinagar airport were also suspended.  

At this, when snowfall knocks earlier, it extends the struggle time for local residents and also catches them off-guard.

Last year's unusually heavy snowfall shone the spotlight on the climate crisis. 

How does early snowfall indicate climate change?

By definition, Global warming is the long-term heating of Earth’s climate system (definition by NASA), but does that mean heavier or earlier snowfall is a step away from it? Not necessarily. During warmer months, a heavy amount of settled snow can melt and can cause record-breaking floods, as was seen in Kashmir in the month of July this year. 

In 2016, the State Action Plan on Climate Change (SAPCC) revealed a steady decline in snowfall over the years.  Kashmir, according to the SAPCC, had witnessed a rise in temperature of 1.45°C over the preceding last two decades. An early snowfall also indicates the lack of a predictable pattern of snow in the valley. 

During the winter, temperatures drop, and instead of downpours massive winter storms or heavy snowfall can be caused.  This year in January, HC Murumur, a CRPF sub-inspector who was deployed at Srinagar’s Hazratbal died after a shed collapsed due to accumulation of snow, news agency PTI had reported. 

Since climate change causes subsequent changes, the consequences of an early snowfall, or any unpredictable turn of events in the climate, causes casualties and disrupts the overall balance of hilly areas everywhere.

US puts India on the 'countries of concern' list

The United States recently created a list where it put countries of concern, that contribute to climate change. India is among the 11 countries as 'countries of concern' that in the assessment of the American intelligence community, will bear the brunt of global warming that could include intensifying and more frequent heatwaves and droughts, power scarcity.

Also Read: Jammu & Kashmir: 2 killed after being trapped in snow in Anantnag

Also Read: J&K: 3 killed as snowfall, rains trigger mudslide; Srinagar records coldest October day in 39 years


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