Winter gives the Himalayan state a miss

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Gangtok, Jan 07 (UNI) Even as Northern parts of the country experiences severe cold, this Himalayan state is far away from the cold weather that usually prevails here.

The temperatures in Northern India, including Delhi, was dropping below zero due to Western Disturbances, a low-pressure system originating in the Mediterranean Sea or the west Atlantic sliding past Iran and western Pakistan to make their way into India ushering in winter with rain and hailstorms.

Winter in Sikkim usually begins in November with the onset of Western Disturbances in the state and lasts till early March.

According to Gangtok Met department, these Western Disturbances is behind schedule in the state resulting in temperatures shooting above normal and absence of rainfall.

''Western Disturbances which brings cold and rainfall has not reached Gangtok. Its still persisting in Delhi, Jammu and Kashmir and parts of Northwest India,'' said K Seetharam, Director-in-charge of Gangtok Meteorological unit.

The minimum temperature recorded today was 7.6 degree Celsius which is around one degree more as compared to the minimum temperature recorded on January 7, 2005 here.

Figures of Gangtok Met for the past three years show that the temperatures were on the higher side with nights becoming warmer in Gangtok located at a height of 5,480 ft.

Evidence of the global warming phenomenon reaching this hill town came up when Gangtok Met revealed that average minimum temperature for January was four degrees Celsius during a period of 30 years (1957-97).

The state is also witnessing a threatening period of dry spell which started from late October, last year that may trigger bush fires.

Sunny weather and dry spell combination is a threat to the rich forest expanse of this hilly state.

Presently, dry bushes and ground grasses are reaching inflammatory stage and only waiting a human mistake to catch fire.

Forest fires had been witnessed all over the state during January upto late March in 2005 due to dry spell and a warm winter resulting in an extensive loss of flora and fauna.

Even the higher altitudes of Lachung and Lachen (both above 8000 ft) in North Sikkim were not spared by bush fires and the army had to be called in.

''There is no moisture entering Sikkim with only local evaporation,'' said Mr Seetharam.

Most of the moisture comes from Bay of Bengal and some from the rainfall of Western Disturbances.

''Both of them are absent presently creating a dry spell,'' he said.

Higher areas of Gangtok had witnessed snowfall on February 14 last year and a sharp chill through out the winter season.

February is going to be warm provided that Western Disturbances is delayed, said Mr Seetharam.

UNI BG PP DB1720

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