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Ski instructor documents unprecedented weather phenomenon outside: 'This has never happened before'

It's a sign of bigger problems.

It's a sign of bigger problems.

Photo Credit: iStock

In Kashmir's town of Gulmarg, known for its stunning ski slopes, there was a big problem this winter — no snow! Usually, the place is packed with skiers from all over, but that was not the case this winter, the New York Times reported in January.

What's happening?

The region's typically bustling ski season, which spans from December to March, is now jeopardized by the prolonged snow drought. The unprecedented dry spell has left ski resorts deserted, the Times reported — with parking lots empty and hotels grappling with a surge in cancellations.

The situation is concerning for locals like Ishfaaq Ahmad Malik, a ski instructor, who witnessed the alarming absence of snow each morning from his bedroom window. 

"This has never happened before in January. Not in my lifetime," 65-year-old Malik told the Times. "Definitely not in Gulmarg."

Per the Times, Indian meteorologists attributed the unusual weather patterns to rising global temperatures and El Niño. During El Niño, which originates in the Pacific Ocean along the equator, the trade winds that usually blow from east to west over the Pacific weaken, and this causes warm water to shift eastward toward the west coast of the Americas. This shift in warm water can lead to an increase in air temperature, which results in a variety of weather impacts in many places — including effects on Gulmarg's recent dry spell. 

Why is the snow drought concerning?

The lack of snow isn't just a bummer for skiers; it's a big blow to the local economy. Many folks rely on skiing and tourism to make a living, from ski instructors to hotel owners. With no snow, there are no tourists, and that means a lot of people are out of work.

The lack of snow isn't just about a bad ski season; it's also a sign of bigger problems. 

Kashmir, like much of South Asia, is experiencing extreme weather patterns, including record-breaking heat waves and erratic precipitation. Rising temperatures and changing weather patterns are making winters warmer and drier, threatening not just skiing but also water sources and agriculture in the region.

Warmer winters can lead to reduced snowpack in mountain regions, which is a critical source of fresh water for many areas. When spring rolls around, the snow melts and replenishes rivers and reservoirs.

With warmer temperatures, less snow accumulates, and what's there melts faster, which can lead to shortages later in the year, especially during the dry summer months. Drier conditions can increase the risk of drought, which adds another layer of stress for farmers trying to maintain their crops and livestock.

What's being done about drought?

Strategies are being employed around the world to combat drought conditions, and several innovative approaches are being taken.

For instance, some regions are improving their weather forecasting capabilities to better predict flash droughts, allowing for more proactive water management.

There's also a push towards developing and planting drought-resistant crops, which can thrive with less water and help ensure food security even during dry spells.

Additionally, water conservation efforts, such as capturing rainwater and reusing gray water, are becoming more common to maximize available water resources. 

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