Skip to main content

Recent precipitation has improved soil moisture conditions for spring planting; however, below-average snow water volumes are a major concern for water availability

  • Seasonal Monitor
  • Afghanistan
  • March 28, 2024
Recent precipitation has improved soil moisture conditions for spring planting; however, below-average snow water volumes are a major concern for water availability

Download the Report

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

    Key Messages
    • In February and March, average to above-average precipitation decreased precipitation deficits following a very dry start to the 2023/24 precipitation season. From 2020/21 to 2022/23, Afghanistan suffered three consecutive years of drought associated with La Niña. However, the development of El Niño in the latter half of 2023 suggested relief would arrive with the onset of the 2023/24 wet season, but severe precipitation deficits remained present through the end of January 2024 before above-average precipitation in February and March. Based on favorable precipitation forecasts through April 5, 2024, seasonal precipitation totals are expected to be 75-90 percent of the 40-year average in some isolated areas of Jawzjan, Ghor, Farah, Kandahar, Zabul, and northern Badakhshan, and average to above-average elsewhere (Figure 1).
    • Generally, the snowpack is below average across most of the country, except for parts of the Kabul(Indus), Panj, Helmand, and Bala Murghab-Kushk basins (Figure 2). Snow water volumes that were close to or at record minimum levels last month have increased to around 50 percent of the 2001-2022 mean in southern, western, and northern basins (Figures 3a- 3c). However, some northeastern basins continue to show record minimum snow water volumes as of March 25, 2024 (Figure 3d). 
    • Above-average precipitation is forecast from April to June 2024, which will likely further improve snow water volumes in basins that characteristically do not melt out until summer (Figure 4). These include the Kabul (Indus), Kunduz, Khanabad, Kokcha Ab-i-Rustaq, and Panj basins. ECMWF precipitation forecasts for March 25 to April 22, 2024, favor mostly average precipitation (Figure 5). This will likely support winter wheat in the vegetative-early flowering growth stage in the country's eastern, northeastern, and northern areas. As per key informants, there might be a delay of 7-10 days in spring wheat planting activities in some areas as the fields are currently under snow or are excessively wet.
    • Above-average temperatures are highly likely through September 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 early summer (Figure 6). The high temperatures may adversely impact earlier-than-normal germinated wheat, winter crops, and rangelands. Above-average temperatures and humidity may expose some wheat during the late vegetative-early flowering stages to rust, 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 country's northern, northeastern, and central parts 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 through the northern hemisphere spring, followed by neutral conditions in May and June 2024. In July 2024, La Niña is the most likely El Niño-Southern Oscillation state (more than 60 percent likelihood), with odds increasing to 75 percent by July-September 2024 and to 85 percent by late 2024. La Niña conditions in late 2024 may result in below-average precipitation in the October-May wet season.

    Update on Seasonal Progress

    Current conditions

    Well-distributed precipitation from February through mid-March 2024 has significantly reduced precipitation deficits in the country. According to key informants, some fields that are planned for spring wheat cultivation are currently under snow or excessively wet, and consequently, there is likely to be a 7-10-day delay in spring wheat planting. The short-term forecast of average to above-average precipitation into mid-April will likely further ease precipitation deficits across the country as well as improve snow water volumes in the Kabul, Kunduz, Helmand, Balkhab, and Bala Murghab-Kushk basins. Key informants have reported that current soil moisture levels are satisfactory in the areas cultivating irrigated wheat and in rangeland areas.

    Precipitation

    Near-average to above-average seasonal precipitation accumulations (October 1, 2023, through April 5, 2024) are expected over large areas, while below-average precipitation (60-90 percent of the 40-year average) may be observed in the northern half of Badakhshan and the northern areas of Faryab, Jawzjan, and Balkh (Figure 1). Due to heavy rainfall on March 20, flash floods were reported in Badghis province in the northwest, which killed one person, destroyed one hundred houses and agricultural land. For the first time since the beginning of the 2023/24 season, above-average seasonal precipitation totals are expected to emerge in the country's central, central highlands, northern, and northeastern areas.

    Figure 1

    CHIRPS season precipitation percent of average
    seasonal precipitation anomaly image

    October 1, 2023 – April 5, 2024

    Source: UCSB CHC

    Snow water equivalent and volume

    Average to above-average snow water equivalent (SWE) are now present in some eastern, central, central highlands, and western parts of the country, while below-average SWE remain over the higher elevations (Figure 2). Snow water volumes were near the 2001-2022 mean in Bala Murghab_Kushk and Khash_Khuspas basins; around 50 percent of the mean in Kabul, Ghazni, Shamal, Arghandab, Helmand, Farah_Adraskan, Hari Rod, Shirin Tagab, Sari Pul, Balkhab, Khulm, and Kunduz basins; but at record minimum levels in Khanabad, Kokcha_Ab-i-Rustaq, and Panj basins as of late March. The average to above-average precipitation from the last week of February through mid-March 2024 has significantly improved the snow water volumes in southern, western, and northern basins during the above period (Figure 3a- 3c), following record minimum snow water volume levels in February 2024. However, northeastern basins continue to show record minimum snow water volumes (Figure 3d).

    It is important to note that rapid snowpack depletion has also been observed in all the basins since significant snow accumulation was observed during the first half of March. According to key informants, second-crop cultivation through irrigation during the summer is expected to be less vigorous due to the combination of below-normal snow water volumes and rapid snow depletion due to above-average temperatures from April to June 2024. There is concern that the abnormally dry conditions at the start of the season and above average temperatures could impact water availability for cultivation in the downstream reaches served by reservoirs and canals during the summer months.

    Figure 2

    Daily snow water equivalent difference anomaly relative to the average (2001-2022) in mm
    snow water equivalent anomaly as of 26 March

    As of March 26, 2024

    Source: USGS/NASA

    Figure 3

    Figure 3a. Seasonal snow water volume (light blue line) and historical average (blue dotted line) as a function of time in Hari Rod (west) as of March 25, 2024
    snow water volume time series for Hari Rod basin

    Source: USGS/NASA

    Figure 3b. Helmand basin (south) as of March 25, 2024
    snow water volume time series for Helmand basin

    Source: USGS/NASA

    Figure 3c. Kabul basin (east) as of March 25, 2024
    snow water volume timeseries for Kabul Indus basin

    Source: USGS/NASA

    Figure 3d. Panj basin (northeast) as of March 25, 2024
    snow water volume timeseries for Panj basin

    Source: USGS/NASA


    Forecast

    Precipitation

    Spring rains are expected to be above average based on precipitation accumulation since March 2024 and precipitation forecasts for April-June 2024 (Figure 4). ECMWFweekly precipitation forecasts from March 25 through April 22, 2024, favor mostly average precipitation (Figure 5). Farmers are likely to begin planting spring wheat once the excessively wet soils become conducive to cultivation in the coming weeks. Minimal adverse impact on agricultural activities by flooding is expected from late March to early April since forecast stream flows are below average.

    Figure 4

    Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) multi-system seasonal precipitation forecast probabilities for April through June 2024
    monthly precipitation forecast for April-June

    As of March 1, 2024

    Source: Copernicus Climate Change Service

    Figure 5

    Weekly mean precipitation forecasts made for March 25 – April 1, April 1 – 8, April 8 -15, and April 15 - 22, 2024
    weekly precipitation forecasts through 22 April

    Source: ECMWF Forecast System

    Temperature

    There is a high probability of above-average temperatures from April to June 2024 (Figure 6). It is expected that temperatures in the hottest 20th percentile of the historical record are two to three times more likely than normal during the above period. Above-average temperatures will likely cause rapid snowpack depletion, increase water demand, and reduce 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, and it is most likely that rangeland vigor will be below average due to below-average cumulative precipitation and above-average temperatures during the summer months. 

    Figure 6

    Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) temperature forecast for April through June 2024
    temperature forecast for April - June

    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.

    Get the latest food security updates in your inbox Sign up for emails

    The information provided on this Website is not official U.S. Government information and does not represent the views or positions of the U.S. Agency for International Development or the U.S. Government.

    Jump back to top