|It sounds like the plot of a dystopian novel: Crop failures occur simultaneously in multiple major food-producing areas around the world, leading to price spikes, food shortages and even civil unrest. But the authors of a new study published this week are warning that our current prediction models underestimate the possibility that such an event could occur. |
In their study, published in Nature Communications, researchers note extreme weather events such as heat waves, droughts and extreme precipitation can adversely impact crops, and global warming is increasing the frequency and intensity of weather extremes.
They warn that simultaneous crop failures in multiple regions could be caused by a “strongly meandering” jet stream. Between 1960 and 2014, summers with strongly meandering jet streams have resulted in harvest reductions of up to 7%. However, the study authors say that while current climate models effectively simulate atmospheric patterns related to the jet stream, they also underestimate surface weather anomalies and negative effects on crop responses associated with it.
“We need to be prepared for these types of complex climate risks in the future and the models at the moment seem not to capture this,” lead author Karl Kornhuber said, adding that the study should be “a wake-up call in terms of our uncertainties” of the impacts of climate change on the food sector.