Probabilistic simulations of crop yield over western India using the DEMETER seasonal hindcast ensembles
Challinor, A. J., Slingo, J. M., Wheeler, T. R. and Doblas-Reyes, F. J. (2005) Probabilistic simulations of crop yield over western India using the DEMETER seasonal hindcast ensembles. Tellus Series A: Dynamic Meteorology and Oceanography, 57 (3). pp. 498-512. ISSN 0280-6495
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To link to this article DOI: 10.1111/j.1600-0870.2005.00126.x
Process-based integrated modelling of weather and crop yield over large areas is becoming an important research topic. The production of the DEMETER ensemble hindcasts of weather allows this work to be carried out in a probabilistic framework. In this study, ensembles of crop yield (groundnut, Arachis hypogaea L.) were produced for 10 2.5 degrees x 2.5 degrees grid cells in western India using the DEMETER ensembles and the general large-area model (GLAM) for annual crops. Four key issues are addressed by this study. First, crop model calibration methods for use with weather ensemble data are assessed. Calibration using yield ensembles was more successful than calibration using reanalysis data (the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts 40-yr reanalysis, ERA40). Secondly, the potential for probabilistic forecasting of crop failure is examined. The hindcasts show skill in the prediction of crop failure, with more severe failures being more predictable. Thirdly, the use of yield ensemble means to predict interannual variability in crop yield is examined and their skill assessed relative to baseline simulations using ERA40. The accuracy of multi-model yield ensemble means is equal to or greater than the accuracy using ERA40. Fourthly, the impact of two key uncertainties, sowing window and spatial scale, is briefly examined. The impact of uncertainty in the sowing window is greater with ERA40 than with the multi-model yield ensemble mean. Subgrid heterogeneity affects model accuracy: where correlations are low on the grid scale, they may be significantly positive on the subgrid scale. The implications of the results of this study for yield forecasting on seasonal time-scales are as follows. (i) There is the potential for probabilistic forecasting of crop failure (defined by a threshold yield value); forecasting of yield terciles shows less potential. (ii) Any improvement in the skill of climate models has the potential to translate into improved deterministic yield prediction. (iii) Whilst model input uncertainties are important, uncertainty in the sowing window may not require specific modelling. The implications of the results of this study for yield forecasting on multidecadal (climate change) time-scales are as follows. (i) The skill in the ensemble mean suggests that the perturbation, within uncertainty bounds, of crop and climate parameters, could potentially average out some of the errors associated with mean yield prediction. (ii) For a given technology trend, decadal fluctuations in the yield-gap parameter used by GLAM may be relatively small, implying some predictability on those time-scales.