Srinagar: Srinagar recorded its warmest February day for over 75 years on Wednesday, equaling a 76-year-old record with the mercury rising as high as 20.6 degrees Celsius in the last phase of winter, known locally as ‘chila bachha’.
Winter in Kashmir is divided into three parts — a harsh 40-day long ‘chilai kalan’ followed by ‘chilai khurd’ (20 days) and 10-day long ‘chila bachha’.
A local meteorological department official told Kashmir Reader that the mercury in Srinagar settled at 20.6 degrees Celsius on Tuesday as well as Wednesday. A similar temperature was recorded on 29 February 1940, which is more than ten degrees above the normal for this time of the season, the official said.
Referring to the highest temperatures in the last decade, he said that Srinagar recorded 18.7 degrees Celsius on February 15 last year, 16.4 (25 Feb 2014), 16.4 (20 February 2013), 15.2 (29 Feb 2012), 13.4 (6 Feb 2011), 17.6 (23 Feb 2010), 16.5 (27 Feb 2009), 18.6 (29 Feb 2008), 15.2 (23 Feb 2007) and 17 degrees Celsius on 21 February in 2006.
The Valley is witnessing bright winter sunshine, giving a feel of early arrival of spring which usually starts at the end of March. The sprouting of plants and blooming of some flower varieties — signs of spring in Kashmir — have started at least a month ahead of the natural process due to the early favourable temperature. The development has become a source of concern for environmentalists who see it as an effect of climate change.
Apart from occasional snowfall ranging from moderate to heavy in the high altitude areas in the Valley, the plains, including Srinagar, virtually witnessed a snow-less winter, much to the concern of the farming community, especially orchardists. Farmers are concerned that below-average snowfall and rains are expected to have an impact on farming activities in the coming months and early blooming might result in a shortfall in produce as fruit yielding flowers are weak and cannot survive if hit by inclement weather.
The chilai kalan, which begins on December 21, not only remained mostly dry but also saw the mercury settle at several degrees above normal.