Erosion of the Arctic coast linked to large-scale climate variability

Source: Geophysical research letters

The Arctic is warming faster than any other region on the planet. The increase in temperatures leads to a decrease in sea ice cover in terms of both concentration and duration. This has a profound effect on Arctic coastal margins as they are subjected to warmer air temperatures and exposed to more ocean waves that act to thaw previously frozen permafrost soils. Coastal permafrost erosion releases large amounts of previously stored carbon which can then exacerbate climate change, creating a vicious cycle.

Major observational monitoring sites in the Arctic Laptev Sea have been maintained for nearly 30 years and provide rare insight into how rates of coastal erosion vary in response to regional factors. Nielsen et al. [2020] find that most of the variability in coastal erosion can be attributed to changes in the length and concentration of sea ice cover in winter as well as to changes in atmospheric wind and temperature patterns in the large-scale air associated with the climatic mode of arctic oscillation.

Paradoxically enough, this is promising news for relatively coarse-resolution Earth System (ESM) models that have largely overlooked the role of Arctic coastal erosion in the carbon cycle. With typical grid scales of hundreds of kilometers, ESMs are inherently better equipped to improve their representation of large-scale factors of arctic climate variability rather than small-scale features of coastal erosion itself.

Quote: Nielsen, DM, Dobrynin, M., Baehr, J., Razumov, S., & Grigoriev, M. [2020]. Variability of coastal erosion south of the Laptev Sea linked to winter sea ice and arctic oscillation. Geophysical research letters, 47, e2019GL086876. https://doi.org/10.1029/2019GL086876

—Janet Sprintall, Editor, Geophysical research letters

Text © 2020. The authors. CC BY-NC-ND 3.0
Unless otherwise indicated, images are subject to copyright. Any reuse without the express permission of the copyright holder is prohibited.


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Climate variability on the Seeing Past the Smoke workshop program

Dr Chelsea Jarvis is an agricultural climatology researcher working on the MLA-funded North Australia climate program. She says a good knowledge of researching and interpreting weather and climate forecasts helps producers make informed choices.

“Hope is not a plan” is part of the message Chelsea Jarvis brings to the free disaster resilience workshops at Capricornia Catchments.

Dr Jarvis, Agricultural Climate Researcher at the University of South Queensland, presented at the Alton Downs workshops which were held on February 28-29, and will also make a presentation at future sessions, which will be held at Middlemount next week.

“I present climate information: what is the El Niño Southern Oscillation, what is the Indian Ocean Dipole, and I present on Climate Tools: where you can learn more about these climatic factors, how to interpret a forecast and what happens in the next three to six months, ”she said.

Although based in Toowoomba, Dr Jarvis is no stranger to the climate and production systems of central and northern Queensland, having worked for the past two years on the Northern Australia Climate Program, funded by Meat and Livestock Australia. ,

She said she hoped Seeing Past the Smoke attendees would bring a better understanding of how to interpret weather and climate forecasts.

“What I find in many NACP workshops is that people think they know how to interpret them, but they don’t know, and because they misinterpret the forecast, they think they are wrong. , and then they don’t use them. That’s a huge problem that we have to overcome because our climate predictions have come a long way, even in the last 18 months, “she said.

She said the Bureau of Meteorology had implemented a new system, called XSS, which was “so much better”.

Dr Jarvis said she will also show how there are easy ways for growers to find quality weather information.

“It’s a bit of a minefield over there, there is so much information. A lot of people get information from places like Facebook because it’s easy, but it’s not always the best source. It is really important to know what these reliable sources are and where to find them online, ”she said.

She said BOM remained the most reliable forecaster.

“We did a review of the seasonal forecasts going back to the last 10 to 12 months, and they were found to be quite accurate,” she said.

Recognizing the complexity of the BOM website, Dr Jarvis said NACP has good climate information and newsletters available on nacp.org.au

“We develop a monthly climate outlook that includes forecasts from the Bureau of Meteorology, as well as some field offices in Europe and the UK. It is a one-stop-shop.

Dr Jarvis said his research focused on climate variability, more than climate change.

“The bottom line, especially for central Queensland, as many people know, is that it is one of the most variable climates in the world in terms of rainfall; one year you can have floods, the next is drought, ”she said.

“The more prepared people are and the more they understand this climate information and how to interpret it, the more resilient and prepared they can be for future events and so on.

“We’re not really talking about climate change, but if you’re prepared for the variability we’re experiencing right now, you’ve also kind of built in resilience to change. “

She said floods and droughts are part of the natural system.

“So it’s not if they’re coming, but when,” she said.

Dr Jarvis said 2019 was the driest year on record and the knowledge tools were powerful.

“Some of our beef producers say that understanding any forecast, even if it’s for more drought or rain, is really empowering, even if that’s not what you want to hear. It gives you the opportunity to make informed choices, ”she said.

“You hear people say, ‘I hold my cattle, because I hope it rains.’ Well, hope is not a plan.

“If you can look at your weather forecast and understand what it says, then at least you have information, and not just hope.”

Workshop program coordinator Shelly McArdle said the organizers had worked to create an attractive program for the workshops.

“We have presenters whose communities have said they would like to hear. Capricornia Catchments strives to maintain workshops specific to the communities in which they take place, ”Ms. McArdle said.

“It also gives people a chance to start a conversation.”

The first day was dedicated to information, with presenters from council, government departments and community organizations such as the Rural Fire Department, and the second day was devoted to the quiet space to create and reflect, with the art and yoga.

Alton Downs Assistant Fire Director Peter Hunt presented at the Alton Downs workshop. Mr Hunt said the workshops were extremely valuable to the community, giving people a chance to gain insight into fire preparedness.

“The big questions were about permits, firewalls and backburning. The bigger ones come back, no matter where we go, ”he said.

“This has been the problem over the last few fire seasons, it’s a problem that manifests itself. It is being taken care of slowly and we need more inputs at the local level. This is why these community forums are so important; we need more information from the community to our commissioner and area managers to really make them understand that the people on the ground know how to manage their plot better than anyone else.

“They know the speed of fires that normally occur and how much head we need to start turning back. “

Mr Hunt said the Alton Downs workshop sparked discussions about the need for good communication between residents and the fire department, and being able to resolve issues such as these made the workshops invaluable .

“I would really encourage locals to come and attend these workshops,” he said.

Free Middlemount workshops will be held March 13-14 at the Middlemount Community Hall. Visit the Capricornia Catchments Facebook page and book with Janeen on 0428 123 061 or [email protected]


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Big data is essential for farmers to adapt to climate variability

A new study from Michigan State University sheds light on how big data and digital technologies can help farmers better adapt to threats – present and future – of a changing climate.

The study, published in Scientific Reports, is the first to accurately quantify soil and landscape characteristics and spatial and temporal variations in yield in response to climate variability. He’s also the first to use big data to identify areas in individual fields where yield is unstable.

Between 2007 and 2016, the U.S. economy suffered an economic impact estimated at $ 536 million due to variations in yields from unstable farmland caused by climate variability in the Midwest. More than a quarter of the region’s corn and soybean crop is unstable. Returns fluctuate between outperformance and underperformance on an annual basis.

Bruno Basso, professor of earth and environmental sciences at the MSU Foundation, and his postdoctoral researcher, Rafael Martinez-Feria, set out to address the main pillars of the coordinated agricultural project of the National Food Institute and agriculture that Basso has been running since 2015.

“First, we wanted to know why – and where – crop yields varied from year to year in the US corn and soybean belt,” Basso said. “Next, we wanted to know if it was possible to use big data to develop and deploy climate-smart agriculture solutions to help farmers reduce costs, increase yields and limit impact. environmental. “

Basso and Martinez-Feria first examined the soil and found that on its own it could not sufficiently explain such drastic variations in yield.

“The same soil would have a low yield one year and a high yield the next year,” Basso said. “So what’s causing this temporal instability?” “

Using a huge amount of data obtained from satellites, research aircraft, drones and remote sensors, and farmers via advanced geospatial sensor suites found in many modern combines, Basso and Martinez -Feria have woven together big data and digital expertise.

What they found is that the interplay between topography, weather, and soil has an immense impact on how crop fields respond to extreme weather conditions in unstable areas. Variations in terrain, such as depressions, peaks and slopes, create localized areas where water collects or runs off. About two-thirds of the unstable areas are in these peaks and depressions, and the terrain controls the water stress on crops.

With comprehensive data and technology, the team quantified the percentage of every corn or soybean field in the Midwest that is prone to excess or under-water. Yields in poor water areas can be 23 to 33 percent lower than the field average for low rainfall seasons, but are comparable to the average in high humidity years. Areas prone to excess water experienced yields 26 to 33 percent below the field average during wet years.

Basso believes their work will help determine the future of climate-smart agricultural technologies.

The study was funded by USDA NIFA and AgBioResearch.

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Kenyan farmers turn to makeshift greenhouses amid climate variability

Farmers

The 10m by 15m structure of the Murang’a farm in central Kenya is made of wood and polyethylene sheeting for the walls and roof.

The polyethylene material that wears out can cause you to be rejected from a distance, but that’s until you get close. Inside the makeshift greenhouse are dozens of thriving fruit seedlings.

Seedlings made up of grapes and apples, among others, are lush and healthy green, compared to others that are in the open field.

“I have over 500 seedlings here,” said farmer Peter Ng’ang’a, a specialist in seedling propagation, recently. “I switched to greenhouse cultivation three years ago to escape the bad weather that was killing my crops,” he added.

Since he didn’t have at least 150,000 shillings (US $ 1,500) to purchase a factory-made steel structure, he improvised the greenhouse using locally available materials.

“I bought some wooden poles, nails, wire ties and the polythene blanket, then I hired a carpenter to do the job,” said Ng’ang’a, who spent US $ 200 for the structure that protected its crops from climatic variability.

Ng’ang’a is one of dozens of small farmers in this East African country who have adopted makeshift structures to produce food and harvest agribusiness.

Inside structures made of shade nets or polyethylene sheets, farmers mainly cultivate horticultural crops like tomatoes, onions, cucumbers and peppers and fruits like strawberries, in addition to seedlings.

It is these farmers who are currently supplying the markets in this East African country, as most of the crops grown in the fields were destroyed by heavy rains last season.

“I made my own greenhouse last year from wooden poles and shade netting and planted tomatoes, which I harvested this month and sold a kilo for $ 1, double the price. normal, ”said Antony Musau, a farmer from Kitengela, south of Nairobi, adding that he made some $ 1,200 from his 8m by 15m greenhouse.

The past year has been one of the worst for Kenyan farmers as the weather was extremely irregular. The country experienced a very dry period between January and April followed by a short rainy season and a wave of extreme cold, according to the weather service.

These weather conditions inaugurated a long period of rains from October 2019 to January 2020 which washed away the crops.

With the erratic weather conditions, new pests and diseases have not only emerged, but crops have been affected by climatic challenges.

Those who grew crops in greenhouses, however, have been protected from climatic losses and are among those who sell produce like tomatoes, which have soared to an all-time high of $ 0.50 for three coins.

“Greenhouses protect crops from extreme weather conditions such as drought, heavy rains or cold, allowing plants to thrive. They are part of climate smart agriculture because a farm is irrigated and in an environment they can control, ”said Beatrice Macharia, agronomist at Growth Point, an agribusiness firm in County of. Kajiado.

According to her, crops like tomatoes grow well in greenhouses because they need cool, dry places.

“Inside the greenhouses, a farmer avoids diseases like downy mildew and mildew which are caused by rains and cold, hence he is assured of the harvest,” Macharia said.

She noted that most Kenyan farmers over the years have avoided structures due to their high costs, but climate change is pushing them to improvise to grow food. Final element

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Climate variability and Australian agricultural benefits, why weather risk transfer is essential

At a time when Australia was suffocating in record heat as bushfires burned uncontrollably, then suffered from severe storms, a recent study seeks to quantify the effect of climate variability on the country’s agricultural profits.

The impacts of short-term climate risks such as drought and longer-term changes in weather conditions have hurt Australian farmers, with average farm profits falling by around 22% since 2000, costing the industry around $ 1.1 billion per year.

New research from the Australian Bureau of Agricultural Economics and Sciences and Resources (ABARES) shows that climate and variability have a significant impact on the country’s farmers and recommends the use of risk transfer tools, including including index or parametric insurance, as a means to help reduce the volatility they experience.

An observed change to warmer and drier conditions during the period 2000 to 2019, compared to 1950 to 1999, had a negative impact on the profits of Australian farms and ranching.

“Average temperatures have risen by about one degree since 1950, while the past few decades have also seen a trend of decreasing precipitation in winter, particularly in southwest and southeast Australia,” explained Dr Neal Hughes, senior economist at ABARES.

“Controlling all other factors, we estimate that these changes reduced average farm profits by about 22%. These effects were most pronounced in the crop sector, reducing average profits by 35 percent, or $ 70,900 per year for a typical farm operation.

“Nationally, this equates to an average loss of field crop production of 8%, or about $ 1.1 billion per year.

“Although cattle farms have been less affected overall, some cattle breeding areas have been more affected than others, particularly southwest Queensland.”

This effect is clearly visible in the graph below, which shows the effect of climate variability on average farm business earnings from 1949-1950 to 2018-19, assuming current farms and commodity prices.

The study finds that Australian farmers are adjusting to varying weather conditions and the period of hotter dry weather seen in recent years, but also notes that they could do more and may need to do so if it continues.

ABARES Executive Director Dr Steve Hatfield-Dodds commented on the study: “An analysis like this is complex because you have to take into account the many factors that affect farm profits including seasonal conditions, prices inputs and outputs, technology and management practices, and farm size.

“ABARES is only able to do this thanks to our long-term investments in high-quality agricultural survey data and our multi-year efforts to build the farmpredict model. “

“The results of this study have important implications for the agricultural sector, particularly for how farmers and governments respond to the risk of drought.

“Governments are faced with a dilemma, because helping farmers in times of drought risks slowing the adjustment and innovation of the industry in the long run.

“Adjustment, change and innovation are fundamental to improving agricultural productivity; maintain Australia’s competitiveness in world markets; and provide attractive and financially viable opportunities for farming households.

“Supporting struggling farm households is important, but for the long-term health of the sector, it must be done in a way that promotes resilience and productivity, and enables adjustment and change.

“The main options in this regard include research and development to improve the long-term resilience of farms to drought, including the further development of weather insurance markets.

“Insurance is an important area for further research, as it could offer farmers new options for managing climate risks. “

Climate variability and drought seen in recent years have directly affected profits, but also increased volatility for farmers and related industries in Australia.

This requires a response, both at the political and political level and at the level of farmers who are working to improve their resilience to climate variability and drought, while better managing risk through risk transfer and risk management. assurance.

The weather risk transfer, insurance and reinsurance markets can help and are relatively mature in Australia.

Earlier this year, Australian agribusiness giant GrainCorp entered into a 10-year drought risk transfer contract as a profit protection deal with a large global reinsurance company.

As we explained recently, the contract is expected to bring in up to A $ 57.3 million by the end of the current year, as grain production levels in the covered areas of the east coast of the Australia for which this derivative risk transfer agreement is at risk for have fallen to such an extent that GrainCorp will likely receive a large payout in the first year of the transaction.

This risk transfer agreement was put in place to cover the earnings volatility that GrainCorp suffers from due to climate variability and drought, specifically the type of insurance or reinsurance protection that agribusinesses and Australian farmers may increasingly need it, new data from ABARES suggests. .

“Viable weather insurance markets” are a promising development, says the ABARES study, but the weather risk market in particular is still somewhat limited, she said.

“Index or parametric insurance offers an alternative approach, where payments are based on weather data rather than actual damage on the farm,” says ABARES.

Overall, insurance and risk transfer against climate variability is an important area of ​​research, believes ABARES, with work to be done to develop better datasets and tools to support drought insurance.

Of course, this is where the reinsurance and insurance-related securities (ILS) market has both the appetite and the expertise to help provide the protection needed to smooth earnings volatility and sustain. adaptation to the potential new normal in terms of the climate risks they face. by Australia and other parts of the world.

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Rain, hot and humid days in December due to ‘climate variability’ | Nagpur News

Nagpur: Wondering why this December is rainier, foggy, and wetter than the norm for Nagpur? “Climate variability” is the answer, say weather experts.
Christmas came as a surprise to citizens, with many parts of the city receiving low rainfall. Nagpur Regional Meteorological Center (RMC) officials said it started raining late Wednesday night, with drizzle continuing through early Thursday morning in some areas.
The city recorded 9.6 millimeters of rain until 8:30 a.m. Thursday, officials said. Also earlier this month, the city had received light showers.
The discontinuity in the flow of winds brings humidity and rains to the area, said Mohanlal Sahu, deputy general manager of RMC, Nagpur. “Winters have a well-defined pattern: northerly winds hit central India and mercury levels drop. Currently, the wind that arrives in our region is not completely from the north, ”he said.
This is due to the continuous high pressure circulation over Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. “The current configuration is such that westerly and southwest winds are blowing in the region. And because of the high pressure circulation, these winds bring humidity. As a result, the mornings are cloudy and many areas of Vidarbha receive light rain, ”Sahu said.
Compared to recent years, this month of December seems to be much warmer. Explaining the unusually high temperatures, Sahu said, “When the atmosphere is cloudy, the minimum temperature does not drop. For it to fall, the sky must be clear.
Another unusual weather condition that many citizens talk about is a layer of haze enveloping the city. According to Sahu, this condition can also be attributed to the presence of moisture in the air. “When temperatures drop early in the morning, the presence of water particles in the air causes a foggy state. With a further drop in temperature, the haze will turn to fog, ”he said.
Noting that not all unusual weather conditions can be attributed to climate change, Sahu said, “Climate change is a slow and continuous process. Although the winter of this year does not seem as cold as last year – when December recorded a minimum temperature of three degrees Celsius – we cannot call it “climate change”, because the winter of the next year could be cooler. What is happening now is climate variability.
Current weather conditions should change in a day or two. “After January 1, we expect the northerly winds to pick up. Minimum temperatures will drop, ”Sahu said.


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ABARES analyzes the effects of drought and climate variability on Australian farms

Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) Knowledge report provides analysis on the effects of climate variability on Australian crop and livestock farms. The report examines both short-term climate risks such as drought and long-term changes in climatic conditions.

ABARES Senior Economist Dr Neal Hughes said that an observed change to warmer and drier conditions during the period 2000 to 2019, compared to the period 1950 to 1999, had an effect negative on the profits of Australian farms and ranching.

“Average temperatures have risen by around one degree since 1950, while the past few decades have also seen a trend of declining precipitation in winter, particularly in southwest and southeast Australia,” Dr Hughes said.

“Controlling all other factors, we estimate that these changes reduced average farm profits by about 22%. These effects were most pronounced in the crop sector, reducing average profits by 35 percent, or $ 70,900 per year for a typical farm operation.

“Nationally, this equates to an average loss of field crop production of 8%, or about $ 1.1 billion per year.

“Although cattle farms have been less affected overall, some cattle breeding areas have been more affected than others, particularly southwest Queensland.”

Similar to previous research, this study finds evidence of adaptation, with farmers improving in handling dry conditions over time. Our results suggest that without this adaptation, the effects of post-2000 climate change would have been considerably greater, especially for farms.

“While recent trends in precipitation have been driven at least in part by climate change, there is still significant uncertainty about long-term future precipitation. The implications of climate change projections for agriculture are an important area for further work, ”said Dr Hughes.

ABARES Executive Director Dr Steve Hatfield-Dodds said this study provides solid quantitative analysis of the effects of climate variability and recent changes in seasonal conditions on Australian field crops and livestock farms.

“An analysis like this is complex because you have to take into account the many factors that affect farm profits, including seasonal conditions, prices of inputs and products, technology and management practices, and farm size. exploitation, ”said Dr Hatfield-Dodds.

“ABARES is only able to do this thanks to our long-term investments in high-quality agricultural survey data and our multi-year efforts to build the farmpredict model.”

“The results of this study have important implications for the agricultural sector, particularly for how farmers and governments respond to the risk of drought.

“Governments are faced with a dilemma, because helping farmers in times of drought risks slowing the adjustment and innovation of the industry in the long run.

“Adjustment, change and innovation are fundamental to improving agricultural productivity; maintain Australia’s competitiveness in world markets; and provide attractive and financially viable opportunities for farm households.

“Supporting struggling farm households is important, but for the long-term health of the sector, it must be done in a way that promotes resilience and productivity, and enables adjustment and change.

“The main options in this regard include research and development to improve the long-term resilience of farms to drought, including the further development of weather insurance markets.

“Insurance is an important area for further research, as it could offer farmers new options for managing climate risks. “

Source: ABARES. The latest ABARES Insights article, Analyzing the Effects of Drought and Climate Variability on Australian Farms, is available here.


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Rtl today – climate variability: twentieth century warming “unmatched” in 2000 years

Global temperatures rose faster at the end of the 20th century than at any time in the past 2,000 years, according to a study released Wednesday that experts say undermines questioning by climate deniers about the role of climate change. humanity in global warming.

As Europe suffocated in a second record-breaking heat wave in a month, the three peer-reviewed articles offered the most detailed snapshot of regional temperature trends dating back two millennia.

Climate variability – the fluctuation of surface temperatures over time – has long been the subject of debate.

While average global temperatures are currently about one degree Celsius (1.8 Fahrenheit) higher than in pre-industrial times, there have been a number of periods of cooling and warming over the centuries.

This has led skeptics of man-made global warming to suggest that human activity is not the primary driver of climate change.

The researchers used data compiled from nearly 700 temperature indicators, from tree rings, sediment cores, coral reefs, and modern thermometer readings, to provide a comprehensive timeline of recent climate history. our planet.

The results are clear: at no time in modern human history have temperatures risen as rapidly and steadily as at the end of the 20th century – the period when the post-war global economy , powered by fossil fuels, has reached unprecedented peaks in production and consumption.

The first article, published in the journal Nature, examined regional temperature trends over time.

Scientists have long known periods of unusual climatic activity, such as the Little Ice Age, a secular time when northern Europe experienced colder winters on average than at the start of the 20th century.

The study found that temperatures during the Little Ice Age and other abnormal periods did not rise or fall according to the global lockdown as had long been assumed, and varied regionally over much of the period. Last 2,000 years.

“When we go back in time, these are really regional phenomena, but they are not global,” said Nathan Steiger, of the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University.

This contrasts sharply with current warming trends.

“While in the contemporary warm period, it’s really global – 98% of the globe has this consistent warming after the industrial revolution – and that contrasts a lot with the climate variability that has occurred before over the past 2,000 years.”

– “Finally stop the climate deniers” –

A second article, in Nature Geoscience, examined rates of surface warming, averaged over sub-periods of a few decades each.

They found that pre-industrial temperature fluctuations were largely due to volcanic activity. But they also concluded that humans had never witnessed global warming so rapidly as in the latter part of the 20th century.

Author Raphael Neukom of the University of Bern, Switzerland, told AFP that the discovery “underscores the extraordinary nature of current climate change.”

A third study found that global temperatures leading up to the industrial era were cooled by a series of volcanic eruptions, which resulted in droughts in Africa and weak monsoons.

Commenting on the studies, Mark Maslin, professor of climatology at University College London, said their findings “should finally stop climate change deniers claiming that the recently observed consistent global warming is part of a natural climate cycle.”

“This article shows the truly striking difference between regional and localized climate change of the past and the truly global effect of anthropogenic (human-made) greenhouse emissions.”


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How does climate variability contribute to global crop failures?

According to a recent paper published on July 3 in the journal Scientists progress (1). For example, in 1983, ENSO was responsible for the largest synchronous harvest failure in recorded modern history.

Globally synchronous harvest failures refer to the simultaneous failure of a single harvest in several as far apart as the United States, China, and Argentina. And many researchers predict that these events will become much more frequent due to climate change. So how important is the risk of potential failures on a global scale for food security?

Current models of the global agricultural system assume that crop failures in geographically remote areas are unrelated. However, the new findings suggest that to make global food systems more robust, we need to learn more about the most damaging consequences of so-called multiple “breadbasket” failures. Especially since about two-thirds of the world’s staple foods are produced by about 25 percent of the planet’s cropland. And fewer people than ever have insufficient access to enough food, the authors write. In addition, an increasing number of people depend on imported food to meet their minimum daily caloric needs.

Researchers at Columbia University’s International Institute for Climate and Society Research, in collaboration with the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), assessed how different modes of climate variability cause volatility in global and regional agricultural yields. The study is the first to estimate the extent to which different modes of climate variability influence the volatility of global and regional agricultural production.

In particular, they examined the impact of ENSO, the Indian Ocean Dipole and other well-understood climate models on global production of maize, soybeans and wheat. More specifically, they analyzed how these modes of climate variability influenced drought and heat in the main growing regions.

Globally, maize is the most sensitive to climate variability, which accounts for about 18% of the year-to-year variation in maize production. While only 7% and 6% of the variation in soybean and wheat yields is linked to changes in global productivity, and therefore are less at risk of simultaneous failures.

The researchers also found that the risks are greater for poor farmers in developing countries who lack adequate coping mechanisms and lack the infrastructure and resources to handle large fluctuations in crop yields.

In addition, certain geographic regions, such as Africa and Brazil, are more exposed to the perils of climate variability. For example, ENSO and other recurring climatic phenomena account for 40 to 65% of the variation in food production in Africa and northeastern Brazil, the authors report. While other regions experience fluctuations closer to 10 percent.

Despite these large differences, the results reveal a definite link between climate models in several regions. Additionally, the authors suggest that these results can be extended to monitor and possibly even predict the influence on global production and potential global crop failures.

(1) Anderson, WB et al. Synchronous poor harvests and climate-driven variability in production. Scientific advances (2019). DOI: 10.1126 / sciadv.aaw1976



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Climate variability affects the mental health of the rural poor

New research linking climate variability to mental distress among poor rural India addresses hotly debated topic

Working outdoors in summer leads to heat stress (Photo by Nevil Javeri)

Climate variability affects the psychological well-being of adults, especially the rural poor, reports new research from India, reigniting debate over the complex interplay of factors that could trigger mental distress in those affected by a change climate.

The research, published in the journal Global development, concludes that the hot weather of the previous year worsens the psychological well-being of Indian adults; thermal shocks during the agricultural season increase depressive symptoms; and the negative effects are found among rural residents, but not urban ones.

The report points out that climate variability has been shown to have detrimental effects on disease and death, but “less is known about its effects on psychological well-being, particularly in developing countries whose economies are weak. based on agriculture ”. Poor mental health has been linked to low productivity and high healthcare spending and is a “serious concern” in India and many developing countries, according to the report.

The researchers, led by Magda Tsaneva of Clark University, USA, tested whether extreme temperatures and rainfall in India impacted self-reported depression symptoms, cognitive and sleep difficulties, and the ability to face and control life. The researchers analyzed weather changes over time and at different locations; and found that the hot weather of the previous year worsened psychological well-being among rural adults in India.

Too hot to handle it

The researchers also looked at the potential mechanisms that led to the mental distress and found that it “is largely due to warm temperatures during the growing season and could be partly attributed to reduced agricultural production.” According to them, there is “suggestive evidence” that the effects of climate shocks could be mitigated through poverty reduction programs such as India’s National Rural Employment Guarantee Program which guarantees employment for all households. rural people for 100 days a year.

The report points out that the negative impacts of climate change on agriculture-based rural economies like India are likely to increase over time.

Given that nearly half of the world’s population lives in rural areas and is vulnerable to climate variability, it is essential to understand the effects of climate on psychological well-being and to identify potential solutions to secure populations. vulnerable and break the cycle of poverty, the report adds.

Tsaneva says her team used mental health data from 2003 and 2007, so they were only able to look at the short-term effects of climate for that time period. “That’s why we prefer to use climate variability and not climate change,” she told indiaclimatedialogue.net. “While it is possible that we will get similar effects in the long term, we don’t want to speculate on this because the effects can be lessened if people adapt. As an example, she says new varieties of heat-tolerant crops developed could be a mitigating factor.

Contested research

The latest research builds on a previous one – and hotly contested in India – to study by Tamma Carleton of the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics at the University of California at Berkeley, and published in 2017 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). He reported that “warming trends in temperatures over the past three decades have already been responsible for more than 59,000 suicides across India”, and these accounted for 6.8% of the trend. the total rise in suicides in the country. See: Scientists Criticize Study Linking Farmer Suicides To Climate Change

The Carleton study, however, used aggregate state-level data to examine the effect of temperatures on suicides, while the new research “is the first formal study linking climate variability and mental health to using data at the individual level, ”explains Tsaneva.

Vikram Patel, professor of global health at Pershing Square and senior researcher at the Wellcome Trust, Harvard Medical School, told indiaclimatedialogue.net that “what is well established is that social determinants such as uncertainty in the means of livelihood and displacement, both of which are likely to be greatly exaggerated by climate change, are major contributors to stress which, in turn, is a trigger for mental health issues and self-harm.

But Patel believes that much of the cause of farmer suicides in India has to do with the uncertainties inherent in the profession, which have been compounded by the globalization of food markets and easy access to deadly methods of suicide. “This is why farmers are a high risk group in all countries and have been for decades,” he says. “Climate change will obviously make their livelihoods even more precarious and therefore ultimately affect their mental health.”

Patel also points out that the urban poor are equally vulnerable, especially since “the number of the urban poor will increase as people are displaced from rural areas due to loss of livelihoods, especially due to change. climate affecting agricultural prospects ”.

Saudamini Das of the Institute of Economic Growth, Delhi, challenged the PNAS findings in a letter to the newspaper. Das says, “While there is certainly a loss in yield due to extreme weather conditions, the magnitude of the loss is not huge enough to trigger suicidal tendencies. “

Das January 2018 Letter to PNAS also said: “Studies estimating the impact of climate variables on Indian agriculture show that high temperatures reduce yield by less than 5%, and such loss is not likely to justify suicidal tendencies. “

“Crop losses are identified as a cause of farmer suicides in India, but they are almost total crop losses,” she said. In fact, agricultural insurance schemes in India “do not even include high temperatures / heat waves as an agricultural risk, because heat crop losses are relatively less,” his letter says.

Das had also questioned the definition of hot days used by Western studies. For example, she says, a threshold of 20 degrees Celsius (or 15 to 25 degrees Celsius) used by Carleton to define warmer days “doesn’t make sense” in the context of a tropical country like India. , where a heatwave day is declared if the temperature goes above 40-42 degrees. So in an Indian context, a temperature around 20 degrees Celsius is pleasant weather and unlikely to induce an extreme decision like suicide.

Lost working time

Das, who had conducted an investigation into the economic burden of heat waves – the frequency of which is expected to increase with warming – on the poor in Odisha towns from 2013 to 2014, also disagrees. that mental health problems triggered by climate variability are confined to rural areas. . Reporting the survey results in Climate Economics in 2015, Das showed that poor urban workers suffer loss of working time during extreme heat episodes, which in turn leads to loss of income.

The survey showed that workers work 1.19 hours less and spend 0.46 hours less at home, and that they rest on average 1.65 hours more on a heatwave day than on a summer day. was normal. Stress from loss of income can impact their mental health, she says.

Tsnaeva says poor mental health has been associated with low labor market participation and high health care use, “and can place a substantial burden on households creating cycles of poverty.”

“In view of the increasingly irregular weather conditions caused by climate change, it is essential to understand the effects of climate on psychological well-being and to identify potential solutions to provide for vulnerable populations,” he said. she reported to indiaclimatedialogue.net.


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