A boy and a woman are wrapped in a shawl as they sit at a bus terminal on a cold winter morning in New Delhi. (Reuters)
Delhi has been reeling in punishingly cold weather conditions since the last couple of weeks, facing the second-harshest December in 119 years.
Strangely, parts of the National Capital have been colder than popular hill stations, including Shimla and Mussoorie, in the last few days, both during the day and night.
According to a report in the Times of India, the maximum temperatures in Shimla and Mussoorie over the weekend have been over 14 degrees Celsius, while Delhi recorded 13.3 degrees.
Similarly, minimum temperatures in the hill towns hovered around 4 degrees Celsius, while in Delhi, it plummeted to 2.4 degrees.
A “cold day” occurs when the maximum temperature is over four degrees below normal, while a “cold wave” is when the minimum temperature is over four degrees below normal.
The Met department has attributed this primarily to daytime fog cover over the plains, which is preventing the sunlight from reaching the ground and heating it during the day.
The Northern Plains, extending from eastern parts of Pakistan to Bihar, are witnessing the formation of thick fog every morning. As per the report, this fog eventually rises during the day to form an “uplifted fog” or a very low cloud cover, which, in preventing sunlight from reaching the ground, is making days overcast and chilly.
The reason that these hill stations – located at an altitude of 1600-2000 metres above ground – are unaffected by this fog is because it is not high enough, and hovers at a few hundred metres above the ground.
The thick fog engulfing the NCR region added to the poor air quality (remains severe with AQI of 431), has also wreaked havoc for commuters. Till 1 pm on December 30, over 500 flights were delayed, 21 diverted and five flights have been cancelled due to dense fog at Delhi airport, news agency ANI has reported.
Most private carriers have issued statements and contact numbers for passenger assistance.
The other factor responsible for extremely cold conditions in the national capital are icy northerly winds blowing relentlessly since the last 15 days.
However, temporary respite may come with a change in wind direction, to be followed by a wet spell. Head of IMD’s regional weather forecasting centre Kuldeep Srivastava told the newspaper, “We had earlier forecast light rain in Delhi, NCR on New Year’s eve. Now rain is more likely on January 1 and 2.”
Srivastava added that temperature is expected to drop again January 3 onwards.