, Volume 32, Issue 3, pp 293-311

Impact of temperature and precipitation variability on crop model predictions

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Future climate changes, as well as differences in climates from one location to another, may involve changes in climatic variability as well as changes in means. In this study, a synthetic weather generator is used to systematically change the within-year variability of temperature and precipitation (and therefore also the interannual variability), without altering long-term mean values. For precipitation, both the magnitude and the qualitative nature of the variability are manipulated. The synthetic daily weather series serve as input to four crop simulation models. Crop growth is simulated for two locations and three soil types. Results indicate that average predicted yield decreases with increasing temperature variability where growing-season temperatures are below the optimum specified in the crop model for photosynethsis or biomass accumulation. However, increasing within-year variability of temperature has little impact on year-to-year variability of yield. The influence of changed precipitation variability on yield was mediated by the nature of the soil. The response on a droughtier soil was greatest when precipitation amounts were altered while keeping occurrence patterns unchanged. When increasing variability of precipitation was achieved through fewer but larger rain events, average yield on a soil with a large plant-available water capacity was more affected. This second difference is attributed to the manner in which plant water uptake is simulated. Failure to account for within-season changes in temperature and precipitation variability may cause serious errors in predicting crop-yield responses to future climate change when air temperatures deviate from crop optima and when soil water is likely to be depleted at depth.