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10 Dec 2016

Winter is finally here: 15.6 degrees and falling

HT, 10 Dec 2016, Kolkata: The long wait is over! It’s time to take out your woollens and bundle up as winter has finally arrived in Kolkata.
After a fairly long spell during which winter continued to play hide and seek with the city and the mercury stopped short of 16°C — considered the threshold for weathermen to officially announce the onset — the city got the first taste of chill on Friday as the minimum temperature dropped to 15.6°C.
“The mercury fell to 15.6°C on Friday. The night temperature, too, dropped below the 16°C mark for the first time this year,” HR Biswas, a senior scientist with the Indian Meteorological Department’s (IMD) regional office in Kolkata, said.
The city woke up to icy winds blowing in from the North on Friday, bringing the mercury down below the critical 16°C mark and sending scores across households to layer up or long for the warm embrace of heavy blankets.
The IMD had predicted a ‘normal to above normal’ winter this year. It marked the first time in its history that the agency had put out a winter forecast, even going to the extent of saying that there would be lesser number of cold waves compared to past years. It had also predicted an ‘above normal’ summer earlier this year.
The normal temperature, or climatic normal, in Kolkata for the months of December and January are pegged at 15°C and 14°C respectively. Climatic normal is an average of temperature readings over the past three decades.
“Our readings suggest that winter won’t be harsh this year and the number of cold waves, too, would be fewer. In Kolkata, the average temperature for December would be around 15°C in December and 14°C in January. The mercury could, at best, drop or rise 0.5°C than normal,” an IMD scientist said.
Unlike monsoon, the onset of winter or summer isn’t officially declared by Met officials.
“However, if the mercury drops below the 16°C mark or inches lower, we say winter has arrived in Kolkata. Other parameters, such as the humidity and wind pattern, are also considered before we put out a word on the onset of winter,” a Met official said. The sharp drop in temperature on Friday isn’t a passing phase as has been felt in Kolkata over the past few weeks, say weathermen. There have been spells when the temperature dropped bringing a nip in the air, but a cyclonic system or depression along the coastline pushed up the temperature and humidity levels every time.
However, the chill, it seems, is here to stay this time. Cyclone Vardah, which is likely to hit the Andhra coast on December 12, won’t take the chill away from the city. The mercury could rise by one or two degrees, but would drop thereafter bringing the chill back.
“The other parameters, too, favoured the onset of winter. The winds that bring the chill from North India picked up over the last few days and the relative humidity dropped as well. On Friday, chilly gusts of wind from the north hit Kolkata bringing the mercury down,” the Met official said.
The sharp drop in temperature on Friday isn’t a passing phase as has been felt in Kolkata over the past few weeks, say weathermen. There have been spells when the temperature dropped bringing a nip in the air, but a cyclonic system or depression along the coastline pushed up the temperature and humidity levels every time.

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