India Meteorological Department (IMD) issued a red-colour warning for Punjab, Haryana, Delhi, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, and amber-colour warning for Madhya Pradesh for Sunday. A red-coded warning is given for extreme weather events.
Delhi recorded its lowest minimum temperature in over two decades, and a thick fog cover affected flight and railway services on Saturday as several places in northern India shivered due to intense cold.
In Delhi, which has been experiencing a cold spell for 15 days, the minimum temperature at Safdarjung observatory, whose reading is considered the official marking for the city, plummeted to 1.7 ºCelsius, five degrees below normal.
The reading was the same as December 30, 2013, and lowest since December 11, 1996, when the minimum temperature was 2.3 ºC. The all-time record for Delhi, in terms of minimum temperature, is 0ºC recorded on December 27, 1930.
According to the India Meteorological Department (IMD), "severe cold wave" condition occurs when the minimum temperature is at 2ºC.
On Saturday, the maximum temperature at Safdarjung was 13.3ºC, seven degrees below normal — which also meant it was a severely cold day in Delhi.
A severe cold day is defined as one in which the maximum temperature is at least 6.4ºC below normal and the minimum temperature is under 10ºC.
The minimum and maximum temperatures recorded at Lodhi Road observatory were 1.7ºC and 13ºC, respectively.
Kuldeep Shrivastava, the head of Regional Weather Forecasting Centre in Delhi, said, "Severe cold wave and cold day conditions will continue for two more days. 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."
As fog enveloped the national capital, six incoming flights were diverted to other destinations, two departing flights were cancelled and over 150 delayed, according to a Delhi airport official who did not want to be named.
A railway official said 24 trains were delayed by two-five hours due to poor visibility. They included the Howrah-New Delhi Poorva Express, Bengaluru-Nizamuddin Rajdhani Express and Bhubaneswar-New Delhi Rajdhani Express.
The mean maximum temperature for December so far this year is 19.18ºC, making it almost certain that this December will be the second coldest in a century. The lowest mean maximum for December was recorded at 17.3ºC in 1997.
Severe cold wave and severe cold day conditions prevailed at many to most pockets over Punjab, Haryana, Chandigarh and Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar and in isolated pockets over Rajasthan, said IMD's Saturday bulletin.
In Haryana and Punjab, the minimum temperature on Saturday was five-seven notches below normal. Hisar was the coldest place in the two states, at 0.2 ºC.
In Haryana's Rewari district, two people died and 12 were injured in a pile-up of 15 vehicles on the Delhi-Jaipur highway due to dense fog.
The chill was felt in several places in Uttar Pradesh too. Muzaffarnagar was the coldest place recorded in the state, where the mercury fell to 1.7ºC.
Several parts of Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh, also reeled due to the cold as water supply lines and parts of the famous Dal Lake in Srinagar froze. The city recorded the coldest night of the season at minus 5.8ºC.
Many areas in Himachal Pradesh, including Kufri, Manali and Solan, recorded temperatures below the freezing point. The state's lowest temperature for the day was recorded in Keylong, at minus 11.5ºC. Snowfall is likely in the hills between December 31 and January 2.
Fatehpur in Sikar district of Rajasthan recorded the lowest temperature in the state at minus 4ºC. Sikar and Mount Abu recorded a minimum of minus 1 and minus 1.5 ºC.