The Climate of Gilgit

The climate of Gilgit, in the Northern Areas of Pakistan, is a pronounced continental extra tropical climate with an accentuated katabatic effect especially in summers.

The climate of Gilgit is very interesting to study from a meteorological point of view. Its location as a deep valley surrounded by very high mountains, its latitude of 36 N and its location in a region that is outside the monsoon, all influence and contribute towards the peculiar weather of the city.

As the city is just 4500 feet above sea level so due to this low elevation and the surrounding mountains which are arid, the heat is intense during summers especially at day time. For three months of the year i.e., June, July and August, you can expect temperatures as high as 110 F and the average high is not less than 100 F in any of these months. Nights are, however, surprisingly cooler than otherwise expected due to a pronounced Katabatic effect.

The Katabatic Effect

The katabatic wind or the mountain wind is the prime regulator of the night temperatures of Gilgit during summer. Now where in Pakistan is this effect more pronounced than at this place. During night, when the surrounding very high mountains cool rapidly due to clear atmosphere, the air just in contact with the mountain slopes, gets much cooler than the surrounding air, becomes heavy and under the action of gravity starts sliding down the slope toward Gilgit. It reaches this station early in the morning and can create quite a chill even in the summer months.

A typical mid-summer day and night temperature will give the reader some idea of this effect on Gilgit. The midday thermometer exceeds 110 F on a typical hot summer day, while night temperatures are around 60 F -a difference in temperature of 50 F in a single day! Thanks to the katabatic effect described above. This is something exceptional and is nowhere else found in Pakistan.

This becomes possible because of the very dry air and usually cloudless skies of Gilgit in summer. As it is to be noted that Gilgit is situated outside the monsoon zone.

The winter season is quite chilly and temperatures can go down as low as 20 F but the katabatic effect is not so pronounced in winters as in summers.

The precipitation is scanty and is not sufficient to support any sort of vegetation. Most of the annual rain comes in winter during western disturbance.

In short, the climate of Gilgit shows extremes of summer and winter temperatures while the nights remain pleasant even during the height of summer due to the Katabatic effect.