Global warming and local air pollution have reduced wheat yields in India


We use regression analysis on data from 208 districts over the period 1981–2009 to examine the impact of temperature and solar radiation (affected by pollution from aerosols) on wheat yields in India. We find that a 1 °C increase in average daily maximum and minimum temperatures tends to lower yields by 2–4% each. A 1% increase in solar radiation increases yields by nearly 1%. Yields are estimated to be about 5.2% lower than they would have been if temperatures had not increased during the study period. We combine the estimated impacts of weather on yield with the estimated impacts of aerosol pollution (measured by moderate resolution imaging spectroradiometer sensor in terms of aerosol optical depth, aerosol optical depth (AOD) in 2001–2013) on weather to compute the net impact of reducing aerosol pollution on wheat yields. A one-standard-deviation decrease in AOD is estimated to increase yields by about 4.8%. Our results imply reducing regional pollution and curbing global warming in the coming decades can counter wheat yield losses.

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Fig. 1
Fig. 2


  1. 1.

    These are the weighted averages of the increases in all sample districts where the weights are proportional to wheat production in 2009.

  2. 2.

    To be precise, rather than using observed temperatures in 1981 and 2009, we use predicted temperatures for those years from district-specific regressions of maximum and minimum temperature on year. This is done in order to avoid any noise introduced by the possibility that the years 1981 and 2009 were unusually hot or cold.


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Sagnik Dey acknowledges funding from the Department of Science and Technology, Govt. of India (DST/CCP/PR/11/2011) through a research project operational at IIT Delhi (IITD/IRD/RP2580).

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Correspondence to Ridhima Gupta.

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Gupta, R., Somanathan, E. & Dey, S. Global warming and local air pollution have reduced wheat yields in India. Climatic Change 140, 593–604 (2017).

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  • Solar Radiation
  • Minimum Temperature
  • Aerosol Optical Depth
  • Support Information
  • Wheat Yield