Weather: Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan

Dust may be the most vivid weather feature across most of Uzbekistan and its southern neighbour, Turkmenistan. Each spring, great clouds of dust whipped up from the Kara Kum desert cascade across the land. They often follow in the wake of blustery thunderstorms that drop little if any rain. The dustiest regions are in central Turkmenistan, with sixty or more gritty days a year, but a pale haze can spread well to the east and last for days. Points along northern mountain slopes, such as Tashkent, are most prone to light winter rain or snow. They’re also the most likely to be warmed by southerly fohn winds that scour out the typically chilly air filtering down from Russia. Even the heart of the desert gets a few days of light snow and a frequent high overcast in winter. Although it’s hardly sultry, there’s a surprising amount of moisture in the air during the virtually rainless summer; the relative humidities are low simply because it’s so hot, with some days reaching 45°C/113°F. Autumn arrives quickly, before which September offers a pleasing blend of warm temperatures, sunshine and little rainfall. The mountains of far east Uzbekistan have an array of micro-climates packed into a small area. For instance, the lower Fergana Valley is prone to howling east winds in winter and a steady west breeze in summer (as revealed by east-leaning trees).