Climate of Afghanistan

Afghanistan is a mountainous country in a dry part of the world which experiences extremes of climate and weather. Winters are cold and snowy, and summers hot and dry. The wet season generally runs from winter through early spring, but the country on the whole is dry, falling within the Desert or Desert Steppe climate classification. Very little snow falls in the lowland deserts of the southwest, but the snow season averages roughly October-April in the mountains and varies considerably with elevation.

Climate normals were computed by Afghanistan ten years ago and provided to the World Meteorological Organization for the global standard normals project. The Afghan normals cover the period roughly from 1956-1983. Based on stations for which climate normals were provided:

  • The average annual precipitation ranges from 2.03 inches at Zaranj in southwest Afghanistan to 39.06 inches in the northeast mountains at North Salang.
  • Temperatures can vary widely, from as cold as 51 degrees below zero F at Chakhcharan (in the north central mountains at an elevation of 7162 feet) to as hot as 124 degrees F in the southwestern deserts at Zaranj.
  • The mountain valleys can experience, on average, 10 to 30 days per year with snowfall, but the higher passes receive much more snow.
  • At an elevation of 11,043 feet, North Salang receives snow, on average, 98 days out of the year with depths reaching as high as 177 inches. Snow has been observed on the ground there as early as August and as late as June.

Strong winds can blow any time of the year, spawning blinding dust storms in the summer and raging blizzards in the winter. During the period 1961-1983, wind gusts were clocked as high as 98 mph in February at Farah, in western Afghanistan. Sunny skies characterize the dry summers, while low clouds bring rain and snow to much of the country during the winter wet season.

Based on data from 4 weather stations (in Kabul, Mazari-Sharif, Herat, and Qandahar):

  • Average cloud cover runs from 0 to 1/8 of sky coverage in summer to 4/8 to 5/8 in the winter months.
  • The percentage frequency of occurrence of low ceiling and/or visibility (cloud height 3000 feet or less, or visibility 3 miles or less) ranges from 1 to 5 percent of the time in the summer months to 11 to 24 percent of the time in January and February.
  • Average number of days per month with fog ranges from zero in the summer months to 4 days per month in the winter.
  • Average number of days per month with blowing dust or blowing sand ranges from 1 or 2 in the winter months to 6 days per month in July.