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Image: Geography and climate
 Photo: Elisabet Eikås
Photo: Elisabet Eikås

Geography and climate

Afghanistan is made up of rugged mountainous terrain, with deep valleys and majestic mountains. In a country with a relatively dry climate and limited rainfall, the mountains are also the most important source of water.

Landscape and borders

The Hindu Kush Mountains run from the eastern border with China and Pakistan, extending west across Afghanistan, separating the northern provinces from the rest of the country. Afghanistan’s highest peak is called Noshaq and is 7,492 meters high. The capital city Kabul lies at 1,800 meters above sea level, nested between high mountains that are snow-capped well into spring.


Afghanistan is landlocked, with long and porous borders to Pakistan and Iran, where the distance between border posts make border control a difficult task. In the north, Afghanistan borders with the Central Asian republics of Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. Last but not least, a thin stretch of mountainous land, the Wakhan corridor, connects Afghanistan with China. It was set up as a buffer zone between the Russian and the British empires in the 19th century.

Climate

The distance from the sea gives Afghanistan a typical inland climate, arid and semiarid steppe with hot summers and cold winters. The lower parts of the country have a semi-arid or desert climate. Along the border with Iran hot, dry, dusty winds are among the most unpleasant features of the summer weather. Temperatures often swing considerably within a single day, as much as from frost at dawn to close to 40°C. Summer is hot everywhere in the country, although the temperatures are less severe at higher altitudes. 

Afghan landscape is breathtaking, but the winter snow makes the mountain roads impassable, often for months at a time. Photo: Ronny Hansen. Winter can get very harsh, particularly in the mountain regions. Some areas are isolated from autumn’s first snow fall until the spring thaw has melted the snow again. In the most severe cases, this can mean up to and beyond six months a year. Weather is most volatile during winter and spring and most of the annual precipitation falls at this time. The influence of the Mediterranean Sea reaches all the way to Afghanistan, sending depressions that bring the winter precipitation. The high mountains to the south and east shield Afghanistan from the summer rains brought to India and parts of Pakistan by the southwest monsoon. Almost no rain falls from June to October. Sunshine ranges from six to seven hours a day in winter to as much as twelve to thirteen in summer.

Increasing challenges

Drought, soil erosion and lack of clean drinking water are major problems for the population. However, not all Afghans suffer from water shortage. In the north, the low-lying plains have relatively fertile soil, and water springs that are filled with water from the Hindu Kush. Previously, sizeable areas of the Hindu Kush were covered in lush forests, particularly in the north and east. The most common trees found in the country include hazel, juniper, walnut, wild peach, almond, oak, olive trees, maple, mulberry, willow, ash and many others. However, during the last decades, much of Afghanistan’s forest has been destroyed. In the east of the country, the forests have been decimated by extensive illegal logging, and much of the timber is exported to neighbouring Pakistan. Other causes of deforestation are the collection of firewood and grazing animals that eat small shoots, preventing the forest from renewing itself.  As a result, a large share of Afghanistan’s land is subject to soil erosion, which further aggravates the deforestation and destruction of pastureland.

Norwegian Afghanistan Committee
Addresse:  Nawai Watt, Street # 03 •  Postal addresse:
work # 148 Shahr-i-Naw, KabulAfghanistan

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