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Low snow water volumes and soil moisture remain a concern, but above-average precipitation beyond February may provide relief

  • Seasonal Monitor
  • Afghanistan
  • February 28, 2024
Low snow water volumes and soil moisture remain a concern, but above-average precipitation beyond February may provide relief

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  • Key Messages
  • Update on Seasonal Progress
  • Forecast
  • Partner
    USGS

    Key Messages
    • Precipitation in February reduced severe deficits that developed from October 2023 to mid-February 2024. Based on short-term precipitation forecasts, seasonal accumulations through early March are in the range of 45-60 percent of average in some isolated parts of northern Faryab, Jawzjan, and over higher elevations of Badakhshan provinces; 60–75 percent of average over western, northern, northeastern, and southern parts of the country. In southern, central highlands, and central parts of Afghanistan, precipitation accumulations in the range of 60–90 percent of average are forecast while near- or above-average precipitation conditions (90-125 percent of average) are forecast in the southwestern parts of the country by early March 2024 (Figure 1). 
    • Below average snowpack was observed in most parts of the country except for localized areas in north, west and and southern parts of the country as of February 26, 2024 (Figure 2). Snow water volumes are either at, or very close to, record minimum levels across the country as of February 26, 2024 (Figures 3a-3d). 
    • The forecast of above-average precipitation during March - May is expected to increase the snow water volumes from their current record low levels (Figure 4). The forecast precipitation will not only help in planting of spring wheat by wetting the soils but will also aid winter wheat in its vegetative stage of growth. 
    • The ECMWF weekly precipitation forecast for February 26 – March 4, 2024, favors above-average precipitation over the southwestern, southern, southeastern, central highland, and central parts of the country while average precipitation is expected elsewhere. During the period from March 4, 2024, through March 11, 2024, there is a high probability of average to above-average precipitation except for below-average precipitation forecast in isolated locations in the eastern and southeastern parts of the country (Figure 5). 
    • Above-average mean temperatures are highly likely through May 2024. Furthermore, air temperatures in the hottest 20 percent of the historical record are forecast to be two to three times more likely than average during late spring and summer months (April – August) which may adversely impact positive germination of sown wheat due to localized dry spells (Figure 6). Above-average temperatures may expose some wheat during late vegetative-early flowering stages to rust in March-early April along with moisture stresses in rainfed crops and rangelands during April-May. Early blooming of stone fruits, mainly almonds, due to early above-average temperatures in the northern, northeastern, and central parts of the country may increase their vulnerability to damage by late spring frosts and freezing temperatures culminating in reduced yields at the end of the season.
    • El Niño is expected to continue until spring of 2024 followed by neutral conditions during June-August 2024. By July-September 2024, La Niña is expected to become the most likely El Niño-Southern Oscillation state (58 percent likelihood) and gain intensity in late 2024. 

    Update on Seasonal Progress

    Current conditions

    Below-average precipitation conditions continue across many parts of the country, but not as severe as in the previous Seasonal Monitor (January 2024), especially in the northern, eastern, and southern parts of the country. Well distributed precipitation in February has reduced the precipitation deficits, and the forecast precipitation up to mid-March is expected to further ease the deficits in many parts of the country. As per key informants, the recent widespread precipitation has improved the soil moisture conditions in the wheat cultivating areas and rangelands across Afghanistan. 

    Precipitation

    Severe precipitation deficits, with accumulations only in the range of 45-60 percent of average from October 1, 2023, through February 15, 2024, in the northern, northeastern, eastern, and southern parts of the country, have been reduced due to the precipitation received during February 2024. Currently, isolated patches of severe precipitation deficits with accumulations in the range of 45-60 percent of average (1981-present) are found only over the higher elevations in Badakhshan. Due to the improved precipitation performance since the beginning of February 2024, isolated patches of near-average to slightly above-average precipitation (90-125 percent of average) are now present in the south, central and east (Figure 1).

    Figure 1

    CHIRPS season precipitation percent of average
    Seasonal percent of average precipitation showing slight improvement in deficits

    October 1, 2023 – March 10, 2024

    Source: UCSB CHC

    Snow water equivalent and volume

    Below-average snow water equivalent was observed throughout the country except localized areas of the north, west, south, and central parts of the country, where average to slightly above average snow water equivalents have been achieved for the first time since October 2023 (Figure 2). However, snow water volumes track currently either close to, or at, record minimal levels in all basins across the country (Figure 3a-3d).

    Figure 2

    Daily snow water equivalent difference anomaly relative to the average (2001-2022) in mm
    snow water equivalent anomaly showing mostly below average

    As of February 26, 2024

    Source: USGS/NASA

    Figure 3

    Figure 3a. Current seasonal snow water volume level (blue line), historical average (blue dotted line), previous year (green line) as a function of time in Balkhab (north)
    snow water volume graph for Balkhab basins near record low

    As of February 26, 2024

    Source: USGS/NASA

    Figure 3b. Hari Rod (west)
    snow water volume hari rod basin near record low

    As of February 26, 2024

    Source: USGS/NASA

    Figure 3c. Helmand basin (south)
    snow water volume Helmand basin near record low

    As of February 26, 2024

    Source: USGS/NASA

    Figure 3d. Kabul basin (east)
    snow water volume Kabul basin near record low

    As of February 26, 2024

    Source: USGS/NASA


    Forecast

    Precipitation

    There is a high probability of slightly above-average precipitation throughout the country during March-May 2024 (Figure 4). The ECMWF precipitation forecast for February 26 – March 4, 2024, indicates a higher probability of above-average precipitation over the southwestern, southern, southeastern, central highland, and central parts of the country, while average precipitation is expected in the rest of the country. During the period from March 4, 2024, through March 11, 2024, there is a high probability of above-average precipitation in the western part of the country while below-average precipitation prevails in eastern and southeastern parts of the country. Above-average precipitation is forecast in the western part of the country during the following two period from March 11, 2024, through March 25, 2024, along with a forecast of average precipitation in the rest of the country (Figure 5). The forecast of average to above-average precipitation until the end of March 2024 will not only improve the snow water volume levels but will motivate farmers to actively pursue spring wheat planting with an aim to offset the shortfall in areas planted under winter wheat in the country.

    Figure 4

    Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) multi-system seasonal precipitation forecast probabilities for March through May 2024
    Mar-May precipitation forecast showing above average

    As of February 1, 2024

    Source: Copernicus Climate Change Service

    Figure 5

    Weekly mean precipitation forecasts made for February 26 – March 25, 2024
    weekly precipitation forecasts from Feb 26 - March 25 showing mostly average to above average

    As of February 22, 2024

    Source: ECMWF Forecast System

    Temperature

    There is a high probability of above-average temperature conditions during March-May 2024 across the country (Figures 6). It is expected that temperatures in the hottest 20 percent of the historical record are two to three times more likely than normal in late spring through summer (April – August). Above-average temperatures are most likely to result in rapid snowpack depletion, reducing water availability for irrigated crop water use during the latter part of the season. The moisture stress threat to rainfed crops and rangelands will remain high during summer months.

    Figure 6

    Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) temperature forecast for March through May 2024
    March - May temperature forecast showing above average

    As of February 1, 2024

    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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