North India shivers in intense cold

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New Delhi, Jan 1 (PTI) In the grip of a brutal cold wave, large parts of north India recorded bone-chilling temperatures and were blanketed in thick fog while some places in Kashmir were cloaked in snow on New Year's Day on Friday.

In Delhi, the mercury plummeted to a 15-year low of 1.1 degrees Celsius and dense fog reduced visibility to zero metres, according to the India Meteorological Department (IMD).

On the other hand, Madhya Pradesh in central India got some respite from the biting cold as the mercury went up a few notches.

Delhi's Safdarjung Observatory, which provides representative data for the city, recorded a minimum temperature of 1.1 degrees Celsius, the lowest in 15 years, as a severe cold wave swept the city.

On January 8, 2006, the city had recorded a minimum temperature of 0.2 degrees Celsius. The all-time low of minus 0.6 degrees Celsius was registered in January 1935.

The mercury in the national capital has been showing a declining trend over the past few days.

The city had recorded a low of 3.3 degrees Celsius on Thursday, 3.5 degrees Celsius on Wednesday, 3.6 degrees Celsius on Tuesday and 5.6 degrees Celsius on Monday.

Kuldeep Srivastava, the head of the IMD's regional forecasting centre, said 'very dense' fog lowered visibility to 'zero' metres at Safdarjung and Palam at 6 am.

He said the minimum temperature will start rising under the influence of an 'intense' western disturbance which will affect northwest India from January 2 to January 6.

The minimum temperature is predicted to rise to 8 degrees Celsius by January 4-5.

Kashmir also grappled with severe cold wave conditions with the mercury settling at sub-zero levels across the valley, officials said.

The famous ski resort of Gulmarg was the coldest place in Kashmir with a minimum temperature of minus 9 degrees Celsius, they said.

The weather remained dry across Kashmir. However, huge icicles formed against white-cloaked meadows at various places in Gulmarg, offering a picturesque view to hordes of people who came to celebrate the New Year, they added.

Srinagar city, the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir, recorded a low of minus 6.4 degrees Celsius, down from minus 5.9 degrees Celsius the previous night.

Pahalgam, which serves as the base camp for the annual Amarnath Yatra, recorded a low of minus 7.8 degrees Celsius.

Kashmir is currently in the grip of 'Chillai-Kalan' -- the 40-day harshest winter period when a cold wave grips the region and the temperature drops considerably leading to the freezing of water bodies and water supply lines.

In the neighbouring states of Punjab and Haryana, too, there was no let-up in cold weather conditions. The two states were enveloped by fog in the morning, reducing visibility, the Meteorological Department in Chandigarh said.

Hisar in Haryana was the coldest place in the two states for the second consecutive day with a minimum temperature of minus 1.2 degrees Celsius, it said.

Narnaul recorded a low of 0.2 degrees Celsius, Sirsa 2 degrees Celsius, Ambala 4.4 degrees Celsius, Karnal 3.5 degrees Celsius, Rohtak 2 degrees Celsius, and Bhiwani 3.9 degrees Celsius.

In Punjab, Faridkot recorded a minimum temperature of 0.2 degrees Celsius, Bathinda 1.2 degrees Celsius and Amritsar 2.2 degrees Celsius.

Chandigarh, the common capital of the two states, registered a low of 6.1 degrees Celsius.

Dense fog and severe cold wave conditions prevailed at isolated places in Uttar Pradesh, according to the Meteorological Department in Lucknow.

While the day temperatures fell appreciably in Kanpur and Lucknow divisions, they rose in the Meerut division, it said.

The night temperature fell appreciably in Gorakhpur, Ayodhya, Bareilly and Agra divisions, it added.

Lucknow airport recorded the lowest temperature in the state at 0.5 degrees Celsius and the highest was recorded in Sultanpur at 22 degrees Celsius.

The weatherman said rain or thunderstorm is very likely at isolated places over western UP on Saturday, while the weather is likely to remain dry over the eastern part of the state.

There was a marginal rise in night temperatures in parts of Rajasthan, the Meteorological Department in Jaipur said.

Churu remained the coldest place in the state with a minimum temperature of minus 0.2 degrees Celsius, it said.

The mercury settled at zero degrees Celsius in Mount Abu, 1.5 degrees Celsius in Pilani, 2.4 degrees Celsius in Ganganagar, 3.8 degrees Celsius in Eranpura Road (Pali), 4.6 degrees Celsius in Bundi and 5 degrees Celsius in Sikar.

The weather department has predicted light rains in Kota, Baran, Dholpur, Karauli, Sawaimadhopur, Jhalawar, Alwar, Dausa, Churu, Hanumangarh and Ganganagar districts over the next 24 hours.

Temperatures rose a few notches in large parts of Madhya Pradesh, according to an official of the Meteorological Department in Bhopal.

Datia remained the coldest place in the state on Friday with a minimum temperature of 5.2 degrees Celsius, up from 2.8 degrees Celsius the previous day.

The weather department said rains are likely in the state on January 3.

'As a result of the western disturbance, an upper air circulation has been built over southwest Rajasthan, this may bring rains in Ujjain, Gwalior and Chambal divisions on January 3,' said G D Mishra, a senior meteorologist with the MeT Department in Bhopal. PTI TEAM DIV DIV