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EXPLAINED: BEHIND COLDER DAYS, NORMAL TEMPERATURE AT NIGHTS IN REGION, CLOUD COVER

EXPLAINED: BEHIND COLDER DAYS, NORMAL TEMPERATURE AT NIGHTS IN REGION, CLOUD COVER

Context

For the past few days, northern states have been experiencing unusually cold days although the night temperatures are normal.

Details

  • It is the result of a western disturbance, which has brought about a spell of precipitation in the northwest Himalaya.
  • During the day, clouds obstruct the heat from the sun from reaching the surface of the earth, reflecting some of it back into space.
  • This lowers the temperature. Cold winds blowing down from snow-bound areas in the mountains also contribute to the cooling effect.
  • At night, however, clouds act like blankets, they help retain some of the heat energy radiated back by the earth’s surface.

How did the clouds get here?

  • In northern India, winter rains and clouds are generally caused by moisture-bearing wind systems called western disturbances, which originate and gather moisture over the Mediterranean region and flow eastwards towards the Indian subcontinent.
  • When some of these winds run into mountains of the northwest Himalaya, they are forced upward.
  • At higher altitudes, the temperatures drop and water vapour gets condensed. This leads to cloud formation and eventually rain and snow.

What causes cold winters in North India?

  • When the earth’s north pole is facing the sun, solar rays hit the northern hemisphere directly and lead to rising in temperatures and the summer season.
  • After half a revolution or six months, the same pole faces away from the sun and the northern hemisphere receives the sun’s rays obliquely.
  • As a result, the rays spread over a greater surface area and are low in intensity, leading to the reduced temperatures and the winter season.

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