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Reducing uncertainty in prediction of wheat performance under climate change

Pierre Martre
INRA, LEPSE, Montpellier, France
on 2015/12/04 at 14:00
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Projections of climate change impacts on crop performances are inherently uncertain. However, multimodel uncertainty analysis of crop responses is rare because systematic and objective comparisons among process-based crop simulation models are difficult. Here I will present resent results of the Agricultural Model Intercomparison and Improvement Project (AgMIP) where an ensemble of 30 wheat models was tested using both crop and climate observed data in diverse environments, including infra-red heating field experiments, for their accuracy in simulating multiple crop growth, N economy and yield variables. The relative error averaged over models in reproducing observations was 24-38% for the different end-of-season variables. Clusters of wheat models organized by their correlations with temperature, precipitation, and solar radiation revealed common characteristics of climatic responses; however, models are rarely in the same cluster when comparing across sites. We also found that the amount of information used for calibration has only a minor effect on model ensemble climatic responses, but can be large for any single model. When simulating impacts assuming a mid-century A2 emissions scenario for climate projections from 16 downscaled general circulation models and 26 wheat models, a greater proportion of the uncertainty in climate change impact projections was due to variations among wheat models rather than to variations among climate models. Uncertainties in simulated impacts increased with atmospheric [CO2] and associated warming. Extrapolating the model ensemble temperature response (at current atmospheric [CO2]) indicated that warming is already reducing yields at a majority of wheat-growing locations. Finally, only a very weak relationship was found between the models’ sensitivities to interannual temperature variability and their response to long-term warming, suggesting that additional processes differentiate climate change impacts from observed climate variability analogs. In conclusion, uncertainties in prediction of climate change impacts on crop performance can be reduced by improving temperature and CO2 relationships in models and are better quantified through use of impact ensembles.


Climate change, Extreme climatic event, Wheat yield, Uncertainty, Impact model ensemble.