By Faizan Arif
Kashmir is currently grappling with an unprecedented heatwave in September, shattering long-standing temperature records due to an ongoing dry spell that has persisted for the last 45 days.
Srinagar, on September 12th, recorded a scorching maximum temperature of 34.2°C, a staggering 6.0°C above the normal seasonal average. This marks the second-highest maximum temperature ever recorded in September since the establishment of the weather observatory in 1891. The previous record of 33.8°C dated back to September 1, 1970, with an all-time high of 35.0°C set on September 18, 1934.
Qazigund has also witnessed record-breaking temperatures, with a maximum of 33.2°C, a deviation of 6.7°C from the norm. This new all-time record surpasses the previous record of 32.8°C from September 12, 2019, and stands as the highest since the observatory’s inception in 1956.
Kokernag reached a sweltering 32.0°C, establishing an all-time record, the highest since 1977 when the observatory was established. This came with a substantial departure from the normal temperature, 6.6°C above average. The previous record of 31.8°C was also set earlier this month on September 2.
If climate change is real, why have temperature records been broken in the past? What’s different this time around?
While it’s true that there have been historical maximum temperature records set in the past, including some dating back a century, the crucial distinction lies in their frequency and recurrence. In the past, these extreme temperature events were exceedingly rare, occurring once in several decades. However, today, we are witnessing a troubling shift. Heatwaves have become far more frequent, and their occurrence has surged. It’s no longer something that surprises us once in a while; rather, it’s a monthly occurrence. Previously, temperature records used to compete with those established 50 or even 100 years ago. Now, they are competing with records set just last year, a clear indicator of the growing trend.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) 6th Assessment Report, titled ‘Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis,’ a comprehensive 3,949-page document based on over 14,000 scientific papers and authored by 234 scientists, provides a compelling narrative. It underscores that hot extreme temperature events, which used to be infrequent, now occur 2.8 times more frequently. Events that were once considered happening every half-century, are now happening 4.8 times more often. Moreover, extreme precipitation events and significant agricultural and ecological disruptions, which were previously rare with a decade-long interval, now occur 1.3 and 1.7 times more frequently, respectively. These distressing trends are only set to worsen as temperatures continue to rise.
The report goes on to highlight a sobering prediction: once global temperatures surpass the 1.5 degrees Celsius threshold, a milestone we are very likely to reach within the next 15 years, the frequency of hot temperature extremes that used to occur once every decade and every half-century will skyrocket. Specifically, these events will occur 4.1 and 8.6 times more frequently, respectively, exacerbating the climate crisis.
This mounting evidence leaves no room for doubt: climate change is undeniably real, and its impacts are becoming increasingly pervasive and severe.
Kashmir’s Horticulture and Agriculture Sectors in Dire Straits as Heatwave Continues
The ongoing heatwave in Kashmir is having a profound impact on daily life, specifically in the horticulture and agriculture sectors. These sectors are particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change, and the current dry spell and severe heatwave are exacerbating the challenges they face.
“Water scarcity has become a pressing issue and everyone in our area is in search of water. Our apple crops have suffered greatly as a result. The heatwave has caused the apples to lose their color, become less juicy, and experience a decrease in weight,” says Shakir Ahmad, a resident of Pargochi Shopian.
“Every year, Kashmir experiences a prolonged period of dry weather, and the disappearance of glaciers due to global warming has worsened the situation. The Mawar stream, which was once the primary source of irrigation of our lands, now dries up during the spring and summer months. Consequently, some farmers in our area have shifted from growing paddy crops to cultivating apples for the past three years. Although their profits have decreased, this change has proven to be a better alternative given the circumstances,” according to Muzaffar Ahmad, a resident of Vailoo Anantnag.
To gain insights into the current situation, it was necessary to turn to experts for their perspectives. Professor Rehana Habib Kant, Dean Faculty of Agriculture at SKUAST Kashmir, elaborates, “The dry weather in August has affected paddy crops in areas without irrigation supply. Adequate moisture is crucial during the flowering stage; its absence stunts growth and reduces yields. However, the above-average temperatures and dry weather in September may enhance crop maturity for this particular crop. For Rabi crops, the ongoing dry spell is less favorable due to low soil moisture. Crops like turnips, radishes, and beetroots may suffer due to reduced soil moisture.”
Syed Tafazul Hussain, Chief Agriculture Officer Budgam, expresses, “Crops dependent on irrigation are facing challenges. Although paddy crops are near harvest and may not be severely impacted, the moisture content in grains might be lower due to the prolonged dry weather since August. Fruit cultivation, especially apples, may suffer due to reduced moisture supply, leading to discoloration and reduced fruit weight, among other issues.”
Amid these challenges, Mr. Hussain offers a valuable piece of advice for the future. He encourages people not to panic but instead to invest in long-term solutions like constructing tubewells, borewells, water harvesting tanks, or dugwells. These investments promise to secure water availability for crops, ensuring productivity remains stable and even flourishes in the face of climate uncertainties.
Weather Outlook for The Next 10 Days
As we look ahead, the weather forecast for Kashmir presents a mix of hope and concern. The region is expected to experience mostly dry weather until Friday. However, the plains of the Jammu region, including some higher elevations, may enjoy monsoon showers in the mornings. Towards the weekend, there is a 50% chance of rainfall in the Kashmir region as well, although any significant precipitation remains uncertain.
Looking further ahead, the next week is likely to remain predominantly dry in the Kashmir region, while some parts of the Jammu region may benefit from occasional rain showers.
- Views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the editorial stance of Kashmir Observer
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