Rain, storms bring brief air quality improvement to northern India this week

By Adam Douty, AccuWeather senior meteorologist
By Eric Leister, AccuWeather senior meteorologist
January 22, 2019, 10:13:24 AM EST

Rain and mountain snow moving into northwestern India this week brought the best air quality that region has had in recent months.

Though the improvement may be brief, any improvement in air quality is significant for areas that have endured dangerous levels of air pollution in recent months.

Prior to the arrival of the early week rain, New Delhi endured an AQI above 400, which falls into the severe category. As initial rain dampened the city on Monday the AQI fell to 160-180, settling into the moderately polluted category before improving further on Tuesday.

On Tuesday, the US Embassy in New Delhi reported one hour with an Air Quality Index (AQI) of good, the lowest category on the scale, as a heavy thunderstorm moved across the city. This is the best air quality observed in the city since the middle of November when multiple days of rainfall were reported.

India 1/22

While the unsettled weather may cause some local travel delays, the rain will be largely beneficial both for agriculture and air quality improvement.

Severe and very poor air quality is a common problem in northern India for weeks or months at a time during the dry season as air across the region becomes stagnant, allowing pollution levels to increase. Poor visibility due to the high levels of air pollution has even been linked to travel disruptions at times in recent weeks.

India Weather Center
Detailed forecast for Chandigarh
Detailed forecast for New Delhi

Another storm system could bring the threat for more rain later in the week. This may help to keep improved air quality across northern India into this weekend and expand the relief farther east.

The risk for showers and thunderstorms will expand across much of Nepal and Uttar Pradesh on Thursday and Friday. The rain may even reach western parts of Bihar and Jharkland potentially bringing improved air quality to these areas as well.

Any improvement in air quality, however, is unlikely to last beyond this weekend. Once rain exits northern India and tranquil weather sets in once again, air quality may once again deteriorate and become unhealthy.

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