The Helmand Sistan Project

Wind of 120 Days

Undoubtedly the most documented climatic feature of this region is the Wind of 120 Days, commented upon by medieval Arab writers, by early European travelers, and experienced by all who live and work in Sistan. The Wind of 120 Days is a fierce flow from the northwest for four months of summer, blowing consistently at 20-25 mph and recorded as high as 120 mph by British surveyors in 1906. Summer temperatures accompanying these winds have been recorded at over 50C/122F in the 1970s, and surface evaporation is accelerated by these winds. Even in winter, the region is susceptible to high winds creating destructive blizzards. Our fall fieldwork was placed between these two seasons, yet we were still regularly accosted by periods of high wind. The winds are destructive of buildings, agriculture, and historical objects left by earlier occupations. We regularly found human remains on the surface that dated thousands of years old, revealed by meters of wind deflation. By the next field season, sand blasting had destroyed the skeletons and the artifacts buried with it.

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Sistan is best known for the Wind of 120 Days, but windstorms occur throughout the year.
Sand blasting from the winds can result in highly eroded objects like these pieces of ribbed pottery.