Parts of northern India are still reeling from the combined effects of fog and frost which have brought disruption to many and death to a small but significant number.
This is a not unfamiliar combination of weather elements during the winter months in the region. Yet, whenever it happens, suffering is great for many people.
The death toll from the winter cold is reported to be as high as 130. This is despite a Supreme Court ruling earlier this month that all state governments should ensure that no one died of cold this winter.
A higher death toll may have been averted by a New Delhi court ruling that the closure of more than 80 temporary night shelters in the city should be reversed.
Almost 30 deaths from cold have been reported in the northeastern states of Bihar and Jharkhand which have seen nighttime temperatures fall to around six degrees below average.
During December, cold weather over the Tibetan Plateau to the north, results in high pressure becoming established in the region. This encourages the northeasterly winds to develop which bring cold Himalayan air sweeping down across the plains of northern India. This is the northeasterly monsoon which is a recurring winter feature of the region.
When these winds fall light, low temperatures can encourage visibility to drop. Fog problems have resulted in the cancellation of flights into and out of New Delhi’s Indira Ghandi International Airport on several days.
Rail services, upon which so many Indians rely, have also been severely disrupted because of the fog.
The good news however, is that the Indian Meteorological Service is predicting a significant rise in temperatures over the next few days, with nighttime temperatures recovering to as much as 3 to 4 degrees above average.
Alas, for some of India’s most vulnerable citizens this respite will have arrived too late.