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Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2005 Nov 29;360(1463):2049-65.

Integrated approaches to climate-crop modelling: needs and challenges.

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  • 1Met Office, Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research, Fitzroy Road, Exeter EX1 3PB, UK.


This paper discusses the need for a more integrated approach to modelling changes in climate and crops, and some of the challenges posed by this. While changes in atmospheric composition are expected to exert an increasing radiative forcing of climate change leading to further warming of global mean temperatures and shifts in precipitation patterns, these are not the only climatic processes which may influence crop production. Changes in the physical characteristics of the land cover may also affect climate; these may arise directly from land use activities and may also result from the large-scale responses of crops to seasonal, interannual and decadal changes in the atmospheric state. Climate models used to drive crop models may, therefore, need to consider changes in the land surface, either as imposed boundary conditions or as feedbacks from an interactive climate-vegetation model. Crops may also respond directly to changes in atmospheric composition, such as the concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2), ozone (03) and compounds of sulphur and nitrogen, so crop models should consider these processes as well as climate change. Changes in these, and the responses of the crops, may be intimately linked with meteorological processes so crop and climate models should consider synergies between climate and atmospheric chemistry. Some crop responses may occur at scales too small to significantly influence meteorology, so may not need to be included as feedbacks within climate models. However, the volume of data required to drive the appropriate crop models may be very large, especially if short-time-scale variability is important. Implementation of crop models within climate models would minimize the need to transfer large quantities of data between separate modelling systems. It should also be noted that crop responses to climate change may interact with other impacts of climate change, such as hydrological changes. For example, the availability of water for irrigation may be affected by changes in runoff as a direct consequence of climate change, and may also be affected by climate-related changes in demand for water for other uses. It is, therefore, necessary to consider the interactions between the responses of several impacts sectors to climate change. Overall, there is a strong case for a much closer coupling between models of climate, crops and hydrology, but this in itself poses challenges arising from issues of scale and errors in the models. A strategy is proposed whereby the pursuit of a fully coupled climate-chemistry-crop-hydrology model is paralleled by continued use of separate climate and land surface models but with a focus on consistency between the models.

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