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March plays it cool in season of sweat S

Summer has set in but Calcutta isn’t sweating over the weather, thanks to meteorological quirks ranging from heavy mid-March snow in Kashmir to frequent rain in central India.

The average temperature in the first 11 days of the month has been four degrees Celsius lower than it had been in the same period over the past five years.

Rashi Ray, 25, missed carrying a stole when she was out on successive nights last weekend. At Abhishek Sanyal’s terrace get-together on Friday night at his Ballygunge Park Road home, the weather was the “life of the party”.

“I was at a club on Saturday and a movie on Sunday and on both the nights I was pleasantly surprised by the weather, which seemed unusually cool,” said Rashi, an advertising entrepreneur.

Since 2009, the mean maximum temperature in Calcutta in the first 11 days of the March has been 34.3 degrees Celsius. The average maximum temperature this March has been 30.3 degrees Celsius, four notches lower.

According to the Met office, 33 degrees Celsius is “normal” during this phase, based on readings from 1971 to 2000.

“We saw monsoon overlap into winter a few months ago and now a semblance of winter is stretching into summer,” said Gokul Chandra Debnath, director of the India Meteorological Department (IMD) in Calcutta.

At the night spots, Yo Yo Honey Singh is proving way hotter than the March weather. For many, it’s been an extended party season, which usually ends in February. “The footfall at Plush last Friday and Saturday saw a big jump from the previous weekend because of the weather,” said Supreeta Singh, a manager at The Astor hotel.

The weather hasn’t followed the normal course in many other parts of the country this year and Bengal is one of the states to have benefited from it.

“It is snowing in Kashmir and raining hard in Delhi, which is not something that happens every year. If north India is cool, there is an indirect effect on Calcutta as cool winds from the north travel there. From January, there has been 40 per cent surplus rainfall in central India, which is also having a cooling effect on the Calcutta weather,” said B.K. Bandopadhyay, deputy director-general at IMD, Delhi.

Weather systems induced by western disturbances hitting the Himalayas have caused constant clouding in central India over the past fortnight. Rainfall has occurred at Ranchi and Jamshedpur along with Purulia, Bankura, Birbhum, Burdwan and the two Midnapores but not Calcutta, where there has only been a drizzle so far.

Rainfall to the west of the city has increased the atmospheric pressure at these places, resulting in cool winds from there entering the comparatively low-pressure atmosphere of Calcutta.

IMD Calcutta director Debnath said the North Wind, which brings winter to eastern India, usually dries up in Calcutta by mid-February. This year, it is still active, keeping the night and day temperature down.

“A high-pressure belt usually forms over the coastal areas of Bengal and Odisha in the second week of February. This brings about a change in the direction of the wind. The northerly wind flow is replaced by a southerly one, but this hasn’t happened so far this year,” Debnath said.

What that means is that the northerly wind still active in Bihar and Jharkhand is reaching Calcutta and its surroundings, unlike in other years when the southerlies flowing in from the direction of the Bay of Bengal begin to stuff the atmosphere with moisture by this time.

The northerlies are sometimes active in Calcutta till the beginning of March, but rarely till midway through the second week of the month, said weather scientists.

A cool breeze blowing from the north was felt throughout the day even on Monday. At 5.30pm, it was blowing at 6kmph. At 8.30 in the morning, the speed was 2kmph.

No wonder some elderly morning walkers by the Dhakuria Lake are still in shawls in the middle of March.

“At our practice sessions, children start asking for a water break every now and then by the start of March. That has not happened so far this year,” smiled former cricketer Devang Gandhi, who runs the Balak Sangha School of Cricket at Bhowanipore.

The wind is also keeping the minimum temperature one to two degrees below normal. According to weather scientists, the laws of diurnal variation make sure that if the minimum temperature is low, the maximum reading too would be in check, which is exactly what’s happening in Calcutta.

Word from the weather office is that a high-pressure belt might form on the Bengal coast on Wednesday and reverse the direction of the wind, in which case summer as we know it would be finally here.

Additional reporting by Sushovan Sircar