Weather Variability, Climatic Change, and Grain Production

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Science  09 May 1975:
Vol. 188, Issue 4188, pp. 535-541
DOI: 10.1126/science.188.4188.535


A cooling trend in the world's climate would have serious effects in the monsoon belts depending on whether or not the recent changes in snow and ice cover in the polar regions were responsible for the droughts in Africa and the failure of the monsoons over South Asia. The cooling and shrinking of the atmosphere at the higher latitudes is believed to have brought the subtropical anticyclones nearer to the tropical rainbelt and have caused a shifting of the monsoon belt.

The regions that would be most severely affected by a continuation of the cooling trend to the year 2000 would be the higher latitudes (above 50 degrees) where spring wheat is grown and the warm band below 30 degrees latitude where rice is the principal grain crop.

Weather variability is a much more important consideration in grain production than a cooling trend. Our highest yields are made when weather is near normal or slightly cooler than normal. It is when weather variables deviate greatly from normal that yields are lowest. Even if the weather does trend toward the coolness of a century ago yields will not be reduced significantly unless the weather becomes more varible