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Abnormal dry conditions since the start of the 2023/24 wet season delays winter wheat sowing

  • Seasonal Monitor
  • Afghanistan
  • November 30, 2023
Abnormal dry conditions since the start of the 2023/24 wet season delays winter wheat sowing

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  • Key Messages
  • Update on Seasonal Progress
  • Forecast
  • Key Messages
    • Below-average precipitation is expected throughout much of the country during October 1 – December 5, 2023 (Figure 1). However, near-average precipitation is expected in some isolated parts of the central and southeast by the end of November 2023. 
    • As of November 24, 2023, snow depths were below-average in the eastern, northeastern, and central areas (Figure 2).  As a consequence, there is no observable snow water volume increase in any watersheds as of the reporting date.   
    • El Niño is forecast to persist into April 2024, to be followed by ENSO-neutral conditions during May-July 2024. Consequently, above-average precipitation is expected throughout the winter 2023/24 season, and most likely to continue to be above-average through the end of the 2024 spring season in. The forecast of above-average precipitation during the 2023/24 winter wet season (Figures 3) may result in the development of above-average snowpack, snow depths, and snow water volumes (SWV) in many basins in the country. There is an increased likelihood of surface and groundwater replenishment in the country. 
    • As per key informants, 2023/24 winter wheat sowing has been below normal in the country as of the reporting date. Low soil moisture in the north and northeastern provinces have led to a three-to-four-week delay in rainfed winter wheat planting. ECMWF weekly forecasts of below-average precipitation up to December 11, 2023 (Figure 4) may result in the farmers missing the winter wheat planting window. Instead, it is expected that they may opt for planting spring wheat from late February through end of March, taking advantage of the above-average precipitation forecast during this period. 
    • Planting of irrigated winter wheat has been progressing in the upper reaches of streams served by reservoirs , and around groundwater wells. However, there are reports of below normal planting in the downstream areas due to shortage of surface and groundwater resources. Consequently, the total area under wheat is expected to be below normal by the end of 2023/24 season. 
    • Above-average temperatures are forecast throughout the country from December 2023 – February 2024 (Figure 5). Forecasts of above-average precipitation coupled with above-average temperatures through spring 2024 (March to May) may lead to severe flooding events in flood-prone parts due to early snowmelt runoff in the western, northern, northeastern, and central basins of the country. Above-average temperatures during April-May 2024 may cause moisture stress in rainfed crops and rangelands and reduce water availability for crop water use in these areas.

    Update on Seasonal Progress

    Current conditions

    As per key informants, below-average precipitation throughout most of the country has resulted in low soil moisture and water availability conditions in areas cultivating rainfed winter wheat as well as rangelands as of November 30, 2023. Although sowing progress of irrigated wheat is near-normal in the upstream locations served by reservoirs and around groundwater wells,  lack of surface and groundwater water availability in downstream areas has led to a delay in irrigated winter wheat sowing in those areas. Farmers who have missed the wheat sowing window by the end of 2023/24 winter season are expected to use the forecasted above-average precipitation during February-March 2024 to plant spring wheat. Overall, below-average precipitation conditions by the end of December 2023 may result in below-normal areas planted to wheat by the end of the 2023/24 season.

    Precipitation

    By December 5, 2023, forecast of below-average cumulative precipitation is expected to result in only 45 to 60 percent of the average received along the stretch from Badakhshan in the northeast to Zabul in the south. Further, forecast cumulative precipitation performance between 60 to 90 percent of average is expected along the stretch from Herat in the west to Ghazni in central Afghanistan. Some localized areas may see average cumulative precipitation amounts in the northern and central parts of the country as of the reporting date (Figure 1).

    Snow depth and snow water volume

    Below-average snow depths were observed throughout the northeastern, eastern, and central basins as of November 24, 2023 (Figure 2). Snow water volumes are currently at very low levels in all the basins in the country. Normally, snow water volumes begin to increase from early November in Panj, Kokcha_ab-i-Rustaq, Khanabad, and Kabul basins however they are at early season record minimum levels as of the reporting date.


    Forecast

    Precipitation

    Below-average precipitation is forecast in the central, northeastern, eastern, and southern parts of the country while there is no tilt towards above- or below average precipitation in the rest of the country during the week November 27 – December 4, 2023, (Figure 4, left inset). During December 4 - 11, 2023, there is an elevated probability of below-average precipitation over most of the country except in the extreme southwest (Figure 4, right inset). Forecast of below-average precipitation into early December, coupled with existing low soil moisture conditions, will reduce time for the farmers to complete winter wheat planting before winter sets in the country.

    Temperature

    Temperature forecasts for December 2023 – February 2024 generated in November 2023 indicate high probability of above-average temperatures across the country (Figure 5). Consequently, there is an increased likelihood of  flooding in the flood prone areas of the northeastern, eastern, central, and western parts of the country. In addition, persistent above-average temperatures would lead to early snow pack depletion, resulting in reduced water availability for irrigated crop water use, and moisture stress in rainfed crops and rangelands during spring and summer months.

    Figure 1

    Figure 1. CHIRPS season precipitation percent of average
    Precipitation forecast through 5 December showing below average conditions in eastern Afghanistan.

    October 1 – December 5, 2023

    Source: UCSB CHC

    Figure 2

    Figure 2. Snow depth anomaly difference relative to the average of 2001-2021
    Image of snow depth anomalies showing below average conditions in central and easter Afghanistan.

    As of November 24, 2023

    Source: USGS/EROS

    Figure 3

    Figure 3. Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) multi-system seasonal precipitation forecast probabilities for December 2023 through February 2024 as of November 1, 2023
    Forecast precipitation through February 2023 showing above average conditions.

    Source: Copernicus Climate Change Service

    Figure 4

    Figure 4. Weekly mean precipitation forecasts made on November 23, 2023
    Below average rainfall expected in the next two weeks.

    As of November 23, 2023

    Source: ECMWF Forecast System

    Figure 5

    Figure 5. Climate Change Service (C3S) multi-system seasonal temperature forecast probabilities (2 m temperature) for December 2023 through February 2024 as of November 1, 2023. Light yellow to red indicates the likelihood of warmer temperatures in the up
    Above average temperatures expected for Dec-Feb

    Source: Copernicus Climate Change Service

    FEWS NET’s Seasonal Monitor reports are produced for Central America and the Caribbean, West Africa, East Africa, Central Asia, and Somalia every 10-to-30 days during the region’s respective rainy season(s). Seasonal Monitors report updates on weather events (e.g., rainfall patterns) and associated impacts on ground conditions (e.g., cropping conditions, pasture and water availability), as well as the short-term rainfall forecast. Find more remote sensing information here.

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