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Seasonal impacts of below-average precipitation thus far in the winter wet season are concerning if deficits aren’t reduced in February and March

  • Seasonal Monitor
  • Afghanistan
  • January 23, 2024
Seasonal impacts of below-average precipitation thus far in the winter wet season are concerning if deficits aren’t reduced in February and March

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

    Key Messages
    • Persistent below-average precipitation and above-average temperatures from October 1, 2023, to January 15, 2024, have been seen throughout the country. These conditions will continue until at least the end of January (Figure 1). Wet season precipitation performance in the range of 45-60 percent of average is spread over the northeastern, eastern, and southern parts of the country. Slightly better precipitation performance in the range of 60-90 percent of average along with isolated patches of average cumulative precipitation is seen in the rest of the country as of the reporting date.
    • Snow water volumes are either at, or very close to, record minimum levels across the country as of the reporting date (Figures 2 and 3).
    • ECMWF weekly precipitation forecasts indicate average to above-average precipitation in most parts of the country in early-to-mid February 2024. The forecasted average precipitation conditions may increase the current snow water volumes from record lows. However, snow water volume deficits may not be completely erased as above average temperatures may cause early snow melt in the country. In response, it is expected that the farmers may opt for planting spring wheat from late February through end of April taking advantage of the forecasted average precipitation (Figure 4 and 5). 
    • Above-average mean temperatures are highly likely between February and April 2024 (Figure 6). Furthermore, air temperatures in the hottest 20 percent of the historical record are forecasted to be 2-3 times more likely than average during late spring and summer months in the country. Above-average temperatures may not only adversely affect healthy germination of irrigated spring wheat, but also lead to moisture stresses in rainfed crops and rangelands during this period. Early blooming of stone fruits, mainly almonds, due to early above-average temperatures in the northern, northeastern, and central parts of the country may be badly affected by late spring frosts and freezing temperatures culminating in reduced yields at the end of the season.
    • There is an increased likelihood of earlier-than-normal flash floods due to the forecast above-average temperatures melting fresh snow occurring during late February and March. These events may distract the farmers in their regular agricultural activities during early spring especially in the eastern and southern parts of the country. 
    • The El Niño-Southern Oscillation is expected to transition from El Nino to ENSO neutral in April 2024 and transition to La Nina by autumn of 2024. 

    Update on Seasonal Progress

    Current conditions

    Below-average precipitation, low soil moisture, and deficit water availability conditions are persisting in the wheat cultivating areas and rangelands as of reporting date. Farmers have alternative plans for taking advantage of the forecasted average precipitation during February-March 2024 by planting spring wheat. Below-average precipitation in the ongoing wet season is unlikely, though nonetheless possible, despite El Nino conditions, which typically lead to above-average precipitation in Afghanistan.

    Precipitation

    Below-average cumulative precipitation is forecast up to February 5, 2024. Most areas in the northeast and east, whereas selected portions of southern provinces have received only 45 to 60 percent of the average while the rest of the country has received 60 to 90 percent of average precipitation as of the reporting date (Figure 1)

    Figure 1

    CHIRPS season precipitation percent of average
    Precipitation forecast through 31 January showing below average

    October 1, 2023 – January 31, 2024

    Source: UCSB/CHC

    Snow depth and snow water volume

    Below average snow depths were observed throughout the country. Snow water volumes are at record minimum levels in all basins across the country (Figures 2 and 3 a, b, c, & d).

    Figure 2

    Daily snow water equivalent difference anomaly relative to the average (2001-2021) in mm as of January 21 2024
    snow water equivalent image showing below normal

    As of January 21, 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).
     Balkhab snow water equivalent

    As of January 18, 2024

    Source: USGS/NASA

    Figure 3b. Hari Rod (west).
    Hari Rod snow water equivalent

    As of January 18, 2024

    Source: USGS/NASA

    Figure 3c. Kabul (east).
    Kabul snow water equivalent

    As of January 18, 2024                                                                                                                          

    Source: USGS/NASA

    Figure 3d. Panj (northeast).
    Panj snow water equivalent

    As of January 18, 2024

    Source: USGS/NASA


    Forecast

    Precipitation

    Near-average precipitation is most likely throughout the country during February-April 2024 (Figure 4). ECMWF cumulative precipitation forecast for January 22-29, 2024, indicates above-average precipitation in some northern areas while average precipitation is expected elsewhere. During the following week from January 29, 2024, to February 5, 2024, average precipitation is expected in the western part of the country while above-average precipitation is forecast in the rest of the country. Precipitation forecast for February 5-12, 2024, indicates below-average conditions in the eastern and northeastern areas while average to above-average precipitation is expected in the rest of the country. In following week February 12-19, 2024, above-average precipitation is expected throughout (see Figure 5). The forecast of average to above-average precipitation in the coming month(s) is encouraging as the current snow water volume levels would be expected to significantly improve. In addition, water availability conditions for spring wheat planting should also improve, motivating the farmers to engage in spring wheat planting.

    Figure 4

    Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) multi-system seasonal precipitation forecast probabilities for February through April 2024 as of January 1, 2024
    precipitation forecast from February to April showing average to above-average

    Source: Copernicus Climate Change Service

    Figure 5

    Weekly mean precipitation forecasts made for January 22-29, January 29 – February 5, February 5-12, and February 12-19, 2024, made on January 19, 2024
    weekly precipitation forecasts through late February showing varied weekly conditions

    As of January 19, 2024

    Source: ECMWF Forecast System

    Temperature

    There is a high probability of above-average temperature conditions during February-April 2024 (Figure 6). Consequently, there is an increased probability of early season flooding in the flood prone areas of the northeast, east, central, and west. It is expected that temperatures in the hottest 20% of the historical record may occur two to three times more frequently than average during the above period. Above-average temperatures are most likely to result in early snowpack depletion thereby resulting in reduced water availability for irrigated crop water use during the latter part of the season. Moisture stress threat to almond orchards, rainfed crops, and rangelands remains high during summer months.

    Figure 6

    Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) temperature forecast for February - April 2024
    temperature forecast for February to April showing above average

    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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