The India Meteorological Department on Sunday issued a red-colour warning for Delhi, and the states of Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, a day after the temperature in the national capital plunged to 2.4 degrees Celsius, Hindustan Times reported. Red is the highest level of warning. The intense cold forced the Haryana government to order schools to remain closed closed on Monday and Tuesday, PTI reported.

On Sunday, the minimum temperature recorded in Delhi was 3.2 degrees Celsius, four degrees below the normal temperature for this time of the year. On Saturday, the maximum temperature recorded in the national capital was 13.3 degrees Celsius, eight degrees below normal.

The weather department has warned of a severe cold wave in many pockets in Delhi, Haryana and Chandigarh, and in some areas in Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Madhya Pradesh. The severe cold is likely to abate only by Tuesday, the weather department added.

“Severe cold wave and cold day conditions will continue for two more days [in Delhi],” said Kuldeep Srivastava, head of the Regional Weather Forecasting Centre in Delhi. “The minimum temperature on Sunday may drop further. We are expecting a marginal rise in temperature on December 31 and January 1, and rains from December 31 night, which is likely to relieve severe cold day conditions.”

The mean maximum temperature in Delhi this December is 19.18 degrees Celsius, which is the second lowest in a century. The national Capital is also witnessing the longest cold spell in December in 22 years. Since 1993, Delhi has had a cold spell only in four years – 1997, 1998, 2003, and 2014.

According to the weather department, a “severe cold day” is registered when the minimum temperature drops to less than 10 degrees Celsius and the maximum temperature is at least 6.4 degrees Celsius below normal. A “cold day” classification is used when the minimum temperature is less than 10 degrees Celsius and the maximum is 4.4 degrees Celsius below normal.

Freezing cold in Kashmir and Ladakh

Meanwhile, Srinagar in Kashmir experienced the coldest night of the season at minus 6.2 degrees Celsius – four degrees below normal – said the weather department. The fringes of the famous Dal Lake froze in the cold, PTI reported.

Gulmarg recorded a minimum temperature of minus 6.6 degrees Celsius on Saturday night, up from the previous night’s minus 7.5 degrees Celsius, said an official of the Met department. In Pahalgam, in South Kashmir’s Anantnag district, the temperature fell to minus 10.4 degrees Celsius.

The minimum temperature across the Kashmir Valley and Ladakh Union Territory stayed several degrees below freezing point, PTI reported. In Leh, the minimum temperature on Sunday was minus 19 degrees Celsius. Dras town, meanwhile, froze at a low of minus 28.7 degrees Celsius.

“There is possibility of light rains or snowfall across Kashmir for a few days from December 31,” said an official. “The spell of wet weather is likely to bring respite to the Valley, which has been grappling with the cold wave conditions.”