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The general climate of the country is typical of arid or semiarid steppe, with cold winters and dry summers. A subarctic climate with dry and cold winters dominates the mountain regions of the northeast. In the mountains bordering Pakistan a divergent fringe effect of the Indian monsoon, coming usually from the southeast, brings maritime tropical air masses that determine the climate in that area between July and September. At times these air masses advance into central and southern Afghanistan, bringing increased humidity and some rain.

On the intermontane plateaus the winds do not blow very strongly, but in the Sistan depression there are severe blizzards during the winter. In the western and southern regions a northerly wind blows with much force and persistence during the summer months. Known as the "wind of 120 days," it is usually accompanied by intense heat, drought, and sandstorms and brings much hardship to the inhabitants of the desert and steppe lands. Dust whirlwinds frequently occur during the summer months on the flats in the southern part of the country. Rising at midday or in the early afternoon, they advance at velocities ranging between 97 and 17'7 kilometers per hour, raising high clouds of dust.

Temperature and precipitation are controlled by the exchange of air masses. The highest temperatures (over 35 C) and the lowest precipitation (less than 15 centimeters annually) prevail in the drought ridden, poorly watered southern plateau region, which extends over the boundaries with Iran and Pakistan.

The Central Highlands, with its higher peaks ascending toward the Pamir Knot, represents another distinct climatic region. From the Koh i Baba Range to the Pamir Knot, January temperatures may drop to 15C or lower in the highest mountain area, whereas July temperatures vary between 0 and 26C, depending on the altitude. In the mountains the annual mean precipitation, much of which is snowfall, increases eastward and is highest in the Koh i Baba Range, the western part of the Pamir Knot, and the Eastern Hindu Kush.

Precipitation in these regions and the eastern monsoon area is about 40 centimeters a year. The eastern monsoon area encompasses patches in the eastern border area with Pakistan and irregular areas from north of Asmar to just north of Darkhe Yahya and occasionally as far east as the Kabul Valley. The Wakhan Corridor, however, which has temperatures ranging between 9 C in the summer to below 21 C in the winter, receives less than 10 centimeters of rainfall annually. Permanent snow covers the highest mountain peaks. In the mountainous region adjacent to northernmost Pakistan, the snow is often more than two meters deep during the winter months. Valleys become snow traps as the high winds sweep much of the snow from mountain peaks and ridges. Precipitation generally fluctuates greatly during the course of the year in all parts of the country. Surprise rainstorms often transform the episodically flowing rivers and streams from puddles to torrents, and an unwary invading army has been trapped in such flooding more than once in Afghanistan's history. Nomadic and seminomadic Afghans have also succumbed to the sudden flooding of their camps.

The climate of the northern plains represents a transition between mountain and steppe climates. Aridity increases and temperatures rise with descending altitudes, becoming the highest along the lower Amu Darya and in the western parts of the plains.

The natural environment is, in fact, so forbidding that at first glance it seems an unlikely site for invasion by so many hostile armies. The reason lies in the country's location at the crossroads of Central Asia, South Asia, and West Asia. In more recent times Afghanistan has been recognized as a land of unexploited mineral and hydrocarbon wealth as well as a geographical buffer between various political systems, rendering its desirability even greater.

Average Temperatures in centigrade in Selected Regions, 1981
Meterological StationSummerWinterAnnual
Konduz31.45.7 18.3
Bamian 18.0-4.7NA
Lashkar Gab33.28.120.6
Kabul 25.1-3.312.5
Jabal os Saraj27.01.115.7

Average Precipatation in Selected Regions, 1981
Meterological StationSnow DaysRain DaysTotal DaysAnnual Precip in mm
Konduz1052 62276.9
Bamian 28NANA87.9
Lashkar Gab02020177.3
Kabul 214364 370.7
Jabal os Saraj165060475.9

Central Asia Cloud Cover

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Page last modified: 05-07-2011 02:21:44 Zulu