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26th January '2017
The Weather Panic!

Over last few days a weather warning has been issued by the Metrological Department. A strong western disturbance is expected to reach J&K around 24th January. Probably, there may be more than one disturbance back to back. The weather warning has created panic among the people and apprehensions of a system failure are strong. This is so because of the recent debacle caused by hardly half a foot of snow. The warning says there may be very heavy snowfall and there is possibility of avalanches in higher reaches. The satellite pictures did show a series of western disturbances approaching Kashmir. Our weather in winter is dependent on these western disturbances. It is only recently that the people have got weather conscious. Thanks to Mr. Sonam Lotus, the head of the Metrology Department in Kashmir, even common man is acquainted with the weather forecasts. He has become a household name. His forecast preceding the 2014 devastating flood was most accurate but unfortunately, the government at that time virtually slept over it. The best they could do was to throw bananas from the state helicopter to the marooned people!

In earlier times, the weather was a for granted thing. There was a set pattern. Kashmir used to have four clear seasons unlike other places in the sub-continent. Spring, summer, autumn and winter had very distinct succession. This was before the global climate change. During winter, people expected heavy snowfalls. During one’s childhood sometimes the snow would accumulate almost to the first floor level. People would be prepared for severe winter in every possible way. Firewood bukharis and charcoal for kangris would be stored in advance. The vegetables would be dried in autumn itself. There were no fresh vegetables during winter. There was no mechanized transport and there was no need for road clearance. People would make their own ways for travelling from one locality to the other. People were also alert to shove off snow from roof tops. Most of the time, the winter was an occasion for hibernation and meditation. Early morning Harissa, a dish made from meat and rice was a treat which people enjoyed. Life was going on at a very comfortable pace. Those were the days of fun and relaxation. Heavy snow warnings did not exist!

Then came the “modernization” and the “development”. Everything changed. We became part of the “civilized modern world”! Now we have modern roads with over a million vehicles moving all over; railways, and airlines. The life is fully mechanized and systemized. There is now a well-regulated “system” running our day to day life. However, a small vagary of weather throws everything out of gear and we have the “system failure” causing panic everywhere! The worst part of the panic is our getting totally isolated from the outside world. It is because of our total dependence on the only surface access to the outside world which gets closed with every snowfall. In olden days, before 1947, our all supplies used to come through the Jhelum Valley Road which never closes during winter. The present National Highway which used to be called the “Bannihal Cart Road”was used only in summer.

While discussing the weather forecasts it must be emphasized that it is very difficult to predict exact weather weeks in advance. One may be able to give a general picture of the possible conditions after studying various parameters which keep on continuously changing. However, with latest satellite technology and computers, it may be possible to give exact weather few days in advance. Again it needs to be updated continuously due to changes in wind speed and direction and the amount of precipitation in the clouds. Even though we may miss the good old days of relaxation and peace, yet to cope up with the changing modern times, we need to be fully abreast of the weather conditions. For this we need to thank Mr. Sonam Lotus for not only making us weather conscious but constantly keeping us up to date about the fast changing conditions.Let us hope and pray that we survive the possible catastrophe predicted by him. The warning not only alerted everyone but is keeping the government also on its toes! Thank you, Mr. Sonam Lotus! People interested in tracking weather through hourly satellite photographs can use the following links:

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