Agro-Climate Projections for a Warming Alaska
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Agro-Climate Projections for a Warming Alaska

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  • Journal Title:
    Earth Interactions
  • Description:
    Climate warming is expected to disproportionately affect crop yields in the southern United States due to excessive heat stress, while presenting new farming opportunities through a longer growing season farther north. Few studies have investigated the impact of this warming on agro-climate indices that link meteorological data with important field dates in northern regions. This study employs regional dynamical downscaling using the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) Model to assess changes in growing season length (GSL), spring planting dates, and occurrences of plant heat stress (PHS) for five regions in Alaska. Differences between future representative concentration pathway 8.5 (RCP8.5; 2011–40, 2041–70, 2071–2100) and historical (1981–2010) periods are obtained using boundary forcing from the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory Climate Model, version 3, and the NCAR Community Climate System Model, version 4. The model output is bias corrected using ERA-Interim. Median GSL shows increases of 48–87 days by 2071–2100, with the largest changes in northern Alaska. Similarly, by 2071–2100, planting dates advance 2–4 weeks, and PHS days increase from near 0 to 5–10 instances per summer in the hottest areas. The largest GSL changes occur in the mid- (2041–70) and late century (2071–2100), when a warming signal emerges from the historical interannual variability. These periods coincide with the greatest divergence of the RCPs, suggesting that near-term decision-making may affect substantial future changes. Early-century (2011–40) projections show median GSL increases of 8–27 days, which is close to the historical standard deviation of GSL. Thus, internal variability will remain an important source of uncertainty into the midcentury, despite a trend for longer growing seasons.
  • Source:
    Earth Interactions, 22(18), 1-24
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