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Climate change, the monsoon, and rice yield in India


Recent research indicates that monsoon rainfall became less frequent but more intense in India during the latter half of the Twentieth Century, thus increasing the risk of drought and flood damage to the country’s wet-season (kharif) rice crop. Our statistical analysis of state-level Indian data confirms that drought and extreme rainfall negatively affected rice yield (harvest per hectare) in predominantly rainfed areas during 1966–2002, with drought having a much greater impact than extreme rainfall. Using Monte Carlo simulation, we find that yield would have been 1.7% higher on average if monsoon characteristics, especially drought frequency, had not changed since 1960. Yield would have received an additional boost of nearly 4% if two other meteorological changes (warmer nights and lower rainfall at the end of the growing season) had not occurred. In combination, these changes would have increased cumulative harvest during 1966–2002 by an amount equivalent to about a fifth of the increase caused by improvements in farming technology. Climate change has evidently already negatively affected India’s hundreds of millions of rice producers and consumers.

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Fig. 1



high-yielding varieties


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VR was funded by the National Science Foundation and the Atmospheric Brown Cloud program of the United Nations Environment Programme. The authors thank Calanit Saenger for assistance with manuscript formatting.

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Correspondence to Jeffrey R. Vincent.

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Auffhammer, M., Ramanathan, V. & Vincent, J.R. Climate change, the monsoon, and rice yield in India. Climatic Change 111, 411–424 (2012).

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