Is winter coming?

Flights Of Fantasy

[ M Panging Pao ]

Winter season ushers in a period of merrymaking, celebrations and general happiness. Winter is generally marked by festivals, picnics, family get-togethers and marriages. Winters in the Northeast, especially in Arunachal Pradesh, are a delight to experience. The weather is cool and salubrious, the air is crystal clear and the surrounding snow-clad mountains are a sight to behold. During clear winter nights, one can spot millions of stars sparkling in the clear sky. The general mood is festive and buoyant.

The pleasant weather and pristine environment attracts large numbers of avid picnickers. Many picnics are organized by various families, clans, organizations and classmate groups. Picnic parties from neighbouring states can also be spotted along the countryside, at most available streams, rivers or valleys. Along the roads, one can spot buses and other vehicles, full of eager and expectant passengers buzzing ahead with music blaring. Most important family/clan events like clan get-togethers, marriages and death anniversaries are organized during winter.

Winter also sees the availability of green leafy vegetables, fresh and delicious fruits like apples, oranges, kiwis, Valencia, and persimmon. Many flowers like dahlia, roses, petunia and marigold also bloom, turning the landscape more picturesque. Enthusiasts are able to spot large numbers of migratory birds from as far as Russia and Europe.

However, Northeast India is experiencing one of the hottest Octobers in the last 50 years. Guwahati recorded an average of 37.1 àduring the first half of October and most cities of the Northeast registered temperatures of 4-5 degrees above normal. Arunachal Pradesh capital Itanagar was the hottest on 16 October at 37.8 î Weather officials said that October could have been hottest in the past 50 years and

the high temperatures have unusually persisted over a longer period this time. Experts attribute these above normal temperatures to global warming caused by extensive deforestation and increased emission of greenhouse gases by vehicles, industries, etc.

Experts warn that weather patterns are changing in the entire Northeast due to extensive deforestation which is leading to reduced rainfall in the region. Annual rainfall is predicted to decrease by 5-15 percent in the 2050s as compared to the 1990s, accompanied by an increase in annual average temperatures of 2-2.8 àby 2050 in the region. This changing rainfall pattern, especially during the monsoon season, affects the flow of rivers, extent of snow cover and health of mountain springs, which in turn have an impact on livelihoods, especially agriculture and fishing, forest flora growth, animal and bird habitats and other ecosystem aspects. There is some evidence of the changing courses of rivers in several districts in Assam and Arunachal, causing extensive damage due river erosion.

While winter is pleasant and enjoyable, most people of the Northeast are still waiting for actual winter to set in. People are hoping and praying that November may usher in some winter coolness. Or else, Northeast India may be one of the first victims of global warming. Hoping and praying! (The contributor is retired Group Captain, Indian Air Force)