The climate varies from subtropical and dry in central and
eastern Azerbaijan to subtropical and humid in the southeast,
temperate along the shores of the Caspian Sea, and cold at the
higher mountain elevations. Baku, on the Caspian, enjoys mild
weather, averaging 4° C in January and 25° C in July.
of Azerbaijan receives scant rainfall--on average 152 to 254
millimeters annually--agricultural areas require irrigation.
Heaviest precipitation occurs in the highest elevations of the
Caucasus and in the Lenkoran' Lowlands in the far southeast,
where the yearly average exceeds 1,000 millimeters.
Air and water pollution are widespread and pose great
challenges to economic development. Major sources of pollution
include oil refineries and chemical and metallurgical industries,
which in the early 1990s continued to operate as inefficiently as
they had in the Soviet era. Air quality is extremely poor in
Baku, the center of oil refining. Some reports have described
Baku's air as the most polluted in the former Soviet Union, and
other industrial centers suffer similar problems.
The Caspian Sea, including Baku Bay, has been polluted by oil
leakages and the dumping of raw or inadequately treated sewage,
reducing the yield of caviar and fish. In the Soviet period,
Azerbaijan was pressed to use extremely heavy applications of
pesticides to improve its output of scarce subtropical crops for
the rest of the Soviet Union. Particularly egregious was the
continued regular use of the pesticide DDT in the 1970s and
1980s, although that chemical was officially banned in the Soviet
Union because of its toxicity to humans. Excessive application of
pesticides and chemical fertilizers has caused extensive
groundwater pollution and has been linked by Azerbaijani
scientists to birth defects and illnesses. Rising water levels in
the Caspian Sea, mainly caused by natural factors exacerbated by
man-made structures, have reversed the decades-long drying trend
and now threaten coastal areas; the average level rose 1.5 meters
between 1978 and 1993. Because of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict,
large numbers of trees were felled, roads were built through
pristine areas, and large expanses of agricultural land were
occupied by military forces.
Like other former Soviet republics, Azerbaijan faces a
gigantic environmental cleanup complicated by the economic
uncertainties left in the wake of the Moscow-centered planning
system. The Committee for the Protection of the Natural
Environment is part of the Azerbaijani government, but in the
early 1990s it was ineffective at targeting critical applications
of limited funds, establishing pollution standards, or monitoring
compliance with environmental regulations. Early in 1994, plans
called for Azerbaijan to participate in the international Caspian
Sea Forum, sponsored by the European Union (EU).
Data as of March 1994