Afghanistan is a landlocked mountainous country in the heart of Central Asia region. Geographically, it is divided into three main regions by the mountain range Hindu Kush, which runs from northeast to southwest in the country. The greatest geographical region, which covers about two thirds of Afghanistan, is called Central Highlands. One fourth of the country belongs to the region called Southwestern Plateau, and the smallest of the three in the Northern Plains region.
The weather in Afghanistan is typical for its extreme range of temperature. In the summer (May to November), the temperature may reach up to 50°C while in the winter, – 20°C is very typical in some of the Afghani regions. Precipitation is generally rather low in Afghanistan, and its amount greatly influences the agricultural character of individual regions.
Central Highlands are marked by high peaks of Hindu Kush mountain range which can be over seven thousand meters high. The highest mountain in Afghanistan is Noshaq, with 7,492 meters of altitude. Roads connecting different parts of this region run through mountain passes, which are in altitude of 1000-4000 meters.
The climate of the Central Highlands can be divided into two types: cold desert climate occupies the central area of the Highlands, including the mountain range around the city of Kabul, while the cold semi-arid climate can be found in the outer areas of the Highlands. Depending on the altitude, the temperatures in the summer may vary significantly, so in some areas the July temperatures may reach 26°C while in the others they stay around 0°C. Winter temperatures may range between -15°C and -25°C, depending on the altitude. This region receives very little rainfall, with snowfall being more typical in the winter months. Snow likewise permanently covers the highest peaks while being more abundant in the southern areas bordering with Pakistan. Precipitation in this area may reach up to forty centimetres per year. Contrary to this, north eastern parts of Hindu Kush range do not exceed ten centimetres of precipitation in a year.
The presence of mountain range around Kabul greatly influences temperatures in the Afghani capital. While the temperatures rise during the day, especially in the summer, cool breezes from the mountains decreases the heat at night.
While agricultural production is very limited in the Central Highlands regions, there is significant potato production in the Bamiyan province. Up to 170 tons of potatoes are produced in its semi-mountainous terrain. Shuttle system of planting has been in practice here, with the seed potatoes being first grown in the warmer parts of the country, typically Jalalabad, and then they are transferred here for re-planting in the springtime.
Due to the influence of eastern monsoon from Pakistan, the eastern slopes of Hindu Kush around the city of Jalalabad are of yet very different warm Mediterranean climate. While precipitation in this area isn’t very high, this area is used for growing citrus fruits such as lime, lemon, orange and tangerine. Mulberries, pomegranates and grapes are likewise produced in this region.
Southwestern Plateau is another significantly different climate region of Afghanistan. It borders Iran and Pakistan and its main source of water is the Helmand River. Southern part of this Plateau has warm desert climate with very low precipitation, yet high daily temperatures, especially in the summer, when it rises to 40°C and more. In the winter, the temperature may below zero. In the northern part of the Plateau, the climate is warm semi-arid. Snow might occasionally fall in this area, yet it melts quickly.
The Plateau is typical for the rise of the wind known as the “wind of the 120 days” or simoom, which blows in the summer months. It can hit with speed of 150 kilometres per hour and it brings heat and sandstorm while whirling the dust. Canning and packing fruit is one of the typical industries in the region while grapes and pomegranates are grown in the region of Kandahar and Lashkar Gah. Southwestern Plateau is likewise the main area of opium and marihuana cultivation.
Herat, the city located in the northern part of the Plateau, has more temperate summer climate than the rest of the region. The coldest month in Herat is February when the temperature goes down to about -5°C.
Northern Plains, known also as Turkistan Plains, are situated in the northernmost parts of the country, bordering Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan. This region is known for several different climate ranges ranging from Mediterranean, mildly wet to the cold arid climate. The steppe countryside is widely used for both agriculture and animal husbandry.
The easternmost part of the Plains is where the Badakhshan Province is situated. This region, with Fayzabad as its regional capital, and Kokcha River as the main source of water, is yet very different from the rest of the Plains due to its warm and Mediterranean climate. Thanks to the wet winters and subtropical dry summers, this area is the main commercial and administrative region of otherwise harsh Pamir region. Pistachio, almond, walnut and juniper are among the typical agricultural produce here. Besides the agriculturally used land, there are grasslands and savannas.
Cold semi-arid climate is typical for the section of the Northern Plains bordering Uzbekistan, while the large Afghan cities Mazari Sharif and Kunduz lie in the cold dry climate zone. Thanks to the abundance of pastures, this area has traditionally been used for raising livestock. There are about 30 thousand square kilometres of land suitable for grazing. The animals Steppes north of Mazari Sharif are home of several million of quality karakul sheep as sheep are much more popular among the Afghans for their meat than the goats.