Extreme Cold and Snow in Central Asia

Extreme Cold and Snow in Central Asia

Afghanistan was one of many countries in southern and central Asia suffering through extreme cold and snow in January 2008. Most of the country was covered with snow when the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite captured this photo-like image on January 20. It is not unusual for snow to blanket the peaks of the Hindu Kush, which run down the center of the country like a spine, nor is it unusual to see snow in the rugged northeastern corner of the country. However, in January 2008, the snow extends south to the Pakistani border and west into Iran. Only the low-lying deserts in the southwest escaped any long-lived snow cover.

The bitter cold and heavy snow left more than 300 dead throughout Afghanistan, said the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) on January 22. Hardest hit were the southern and northwestern provinces where snow and extreme cold are less common. Western regions were experiencing their harshest winter in nearly 30 years, with temperatures that fell below minus 25 degrees Celsius (-13 Fahrenheit) and unusually heavy snow, said OCHA. In addition to causing human fatalities, the extreme cold killed thousands of livestock, the main source of livelihood of many in the region, said OCHA. The heavy snow cut off access to many communities.

Photo-like images of Afghanistan are available from the MODIS Rapid Response System twice daily.

NASA image courtesy the MODIS Rapid Response Team at NASA GSFC. Caption by Holli Riebeek.

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