Snowfall recorded in Kashmir Valley in the last few days has broken previously held records at some of the stations. The snowfall has been described as ‘above normal’ rainfall by Sonam Lotus, Director MeT Department, Srinagar.
In a conversation with GnY, he said, “Snowfall at some of the stations have broken records as old as 30 years. But not all stations have broken records. There is no doubt that we have seen very good snowfall this year and though it has caused inconvenience to many, the people here are very happy with the winter snowfall”
Indian Metrological Department officials said a total of 23 cm snowfall has been recorded in the valley in January alone and predictions indicate that it might continue for the next few days.
The heavy snowfall was triggered by a western disturbance, an extra-tropical, non-monsoon precipitation pattern driven by the westerly winds. Western Disturbance is important for rabi crop as it sustains the Himalayan snow cover, which ensures water for irrigation during the summer months when the glaciers melt.
He added, “Winter snowfall is so precious to us and has so many advantages. It prolongs the longevity of glaciers and as you know, glaciers are melting. So snowfall is very good for its health. Most of the villages benefit as they have plentiful water for irrigation. We are expecting more precipitation over the next few days”
‘Chillai Kalan’ the harshest period of winter in Kashmir – from December 21 to January 30 where when midnighttemperatures drop to -10-20 C has coincided with the ‘ above normal’ snowfall. Kashmiris consider the period as a blessing because it sustains the Himalayan snow cover. Most importantly, it also recharges the water table in Kashmir thus making life in summer a bit smoother.
There will be enough water for irrigation, hydro-power generation and drinking for the coming summer. For children, it is play time and for tourists, vacation time.
Additionally, heavy snow is a boost to tourism as it attracts tourists to the Gulmarg ski slopes.
Biodiversity benefits from Snowfall
Dr. R.K. Maikhuri, Scientist-F & SIC of G. B. Pant Institute of Himalayan Environment and Development said, “More the snowfall, better it is for the growth of the plants. Plants in the alpine meadows including medicinal plants grow better and their biomass production is higher”
However, extreme snowfall and fluctuating temperature, along with consequent rain, have already triggered many avalanches and rock slides resulting in several road blocks. But winter snowfall is regarded as a blessing for the people and the glaciers.