The absence of a weather system that brings rains, and hot winds blowing in from Pakistan could have been the reasons behind the unusually high temperatures in many Himalayan areas and hilly regions of north India on Thursday, experts said.
Drass in Ladakh, which is one of the coldest places in the country and where the temperature drops to below minus 20 degrees Celsius, had recorded 22.6 degrees Celsius.
Several parts of north India are experiencing heatwave to severe heatwave conditions.
In Himachal Pradesh, Una recorded 42.5 degrees Celsius, a departure of seven degrees Celsius from the normal, while Solan recorded 35.5 degrees Celsius, a departure of six degrees Celsius from the normal, according to an India Meteorological Department (IMD) bulletin issued on Thursday.
Temperatures were also on the higher side in Ladakh, according to it.
Drass recorded 22.6 degrees Celsius and Thoise in Nubra 31 degrees Celsius. The temperature in Stakna was 25.8 degrees Celsius, in Leh 25.7 degrees Celsius, in Kargil 28.5 degrees Celsius and at Base Camp 23.4 degrees Celsius, the bulletin had said.
The Himalayas are also considered as the ‘Third Pole’ of the world because of its vast ice fields and fresh water reserves.
The north Indian plains usually record heatwave to severe heatwave conditions in pre-monsoon days. Such conditions are also sometimes witnessed in hilly areas.
When asked about the above normal temperatures in the usually cold Himalayan areas, IMD Director General Mrutunjay Mohapatra said it is not unusual for these areas to witness a heatwave.
However, temperatures recorded in these areas are not normal, he said.
Mohapatra said the region is already witnessing a weak monsoon. This has pushed the temperature above normal.
Jammu and Kashmir, Ladakh, Assam and Arunchal Pradesh are known to record their maximum temperatures in June-July, he said.
However, Sonam Lotus, the IMD official in-charge of Jammu, Kashmir and Leh regions, has a different take.
He said temperatures over 30 degrees Celsius are normal during peak summers in all the three regions.
This year, Jammu recorded 42.7 degrees Celsius on June 10, Srinagar saw 34.7 degrees Celsius on June 10-11 and Leh recorded 31.1 degree Celsius on June 8, Lotus said.
He said local factors and topography also play a role in temperature.
Naresh Kumar, who is a scientist at the IMD working on heatwaves, said the probable reasons pushing temperatures in the Himalayan region above normal could be hot winds from Pakistan.
He said if the winds are flowing in the higher level at five to six kilometres, then there is a possibility that this could be the reason behind the current heatwave in hilly areas.
These winds have been one of the reasons behind the rising mercury in the plains, Kumar said.
The IMD on Thursday had issued a heatwave warning for the next two days.
“Due to likely dry westerly/southwesterly winds from Pakistan to northwest India at lower levels, heatwave conditions in isolated/some pockets over Punjab, Haryana, Chandigarh and Delhi, north Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and north West Madhya Pradesh during next two days,” it had said.
Vice president Skymet Weather Mahesh Palawat said Ladakh records scanty rainfall and there is currently no active weather system to bring moisture to north India.
The region sees precipitation due to western disturbance during the non-monsoon months, he said, noting that this is coupled with no cloud
cover and sun insolation.
According to a paper co-authored by M Rajeevan, Secretary in the Ministry of Earth Sciences, and published early this year, there were 706 heatwave incidents from 1971-2019 and it claimed the lives of over 17,000 people.
The paper also said there is an increase in mortality due to heatwaves, an extreme weather event, and lightning.
Incidentally, a heatwave is also sweeping through several parts of North America. Earlier this week, Vancouver recorded over 49 degrees Celsius.