SRINAGAR: Grappling with cold conditions amidst predominantly dry weather, Kashmir registered a slight improvement in night temperatures today even though the mercury mainly stayed below zero degrees across the Valley. 

The forecast by the Meteorological Department here is for mainly dry weather during the better part of 'Chillai-Kalan' -- the 40-day harshest period of winter ending January 31 -- thus suggesting that there will be little relief from the prevailing winter chill. 

"The atmosphere is highly stable and the weather will continue to remain mainly dry for about 10 or more days," Director, Meteorological Department, Kashmir, Sonam Lotus, told PTI here. 

"Like last year, we expect the month of January to remain mainly dry this year as well," he said, adding, however, that there could be a brief wet spell at the end of the month, but "we cannot make solid predictions" that far. 

Meanwhile, even as the mercury stayed below zero degrees, there was some improvement in the night temperature at many places in the Valley. 

The mercury rose by nearly two notches in Kokernag to settle at a low of minus 0.4 degrees Celsius. The minimum there was at minus 2.2 degrees the previous night, a MET official said. 

He said that Gulmarg, Pahalgam and Kupwara were the other places in the Valley where the mercury saw an improvement. 

While the famous ski-resort of Gulmarg recorded a low of minus 4.2 degrees, Pahalgam had the mercury settle at minus 4.4 degrees. 

In north Kashmir's Kupwara, the minimum settled at minus 2.5 degrees, the official said. 

Temperatures were identical to that on the night before at Qazigund and Kargil towns in Kashmir division, settling at minus 2.8 degrees and minus 12.4 degrees, respectively, the official said. 

The night temperature in the summer capital of Srinagar dropped slightly to settle at minus 2.9 degrees as against the previous night's minus 2.5 degrees, he said. 

Leh in the frontier region of Ladakh recorded a low of minus 13.5 degrees, compared to minus 13.2 degrees the previous night, the official said, adding that the town was the coldest recorded place in Jammu and Kashmir.

'Chillai-Kalan', which began on winter solstice on 

December 21 and ends January 31, is the harshest period of winter in Kashmir when the chance of snowfall is most frequent and maximum. 

The 40-day period is followed by a 20-day long 'Chillai- Khurd' (small cold) and a 10-day long 'Chillai Bachha' (baby cold). 

However, the 40-day period has thus far remained largely dry except for a brief spell of light snow in the plains on two occasions and moderate snowfall in the higher reaches on a few occasions. 

Owing to the dry weather, the minimum temperature in the Valley has mostly hovered below freezing point and resulted in an increase in common ailments like cough and cold among the people here.