Uncertainty in simulating wheat yields under climate change


Projections of climate change impacts on crop yields are inherently uncertain1. Uncertainty is often quantified when projecting future greenhouse gas emissions and their influence on climate2. However, multi-model uncertainty analysis of crop responses to climate change is rare because systematic and objective comparisons among process-based crop simulation models1,3 are difficult4. Here we present the largest standardized model intercomparison for climate change impacts so far. We found that individual crop models are able to simulate measured wheat grain yields accurately under a range of environments, particularly if the input information is sufficient. However, simulated climate change impacts vary across models owing to differences in model structures and parameter values. A greater proportion of the uncertainty in climate change impact projections was due to variations among crop models than to variations among downscaled general circulation models. Uncertainties in simulated impacts increased with CO2 concentrations and associated warming. These impact uncertainties can be reduced by improving temperature and CO2 relationships in models and better quantified through use of multi-model ensembles. Less uncertainty in describing how climate change may affect agricultural productivity will aid adaptation strategy development andpolicymaking.

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Figure 1: Wheat model–observation comparisons.
Figure 2: Variability in impact model uncertainty.
Figure 3: Sensitivity of simulated and observed wheat to temperature and CO2 change.
Figure 4: Size of model ensembles and impact model uncertainty.


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S.A., F.E., C.R., J.W.J., K.J.B. and J.L.H. motivated the study; S.A. and F.E. coordinated the study; S.A., F.E., D.W., P.M., D.C. and A.C.R. analysed data; D.C., A.C.R., K.J.B., P.J.T., R.P.R., N.B., B.B., D.R., P.B., P.S., L.H., M.A.S., P.S., C.S., G.O.L., P.K.A., S.N.K., R.C.I., J.W.W., L.A.H., R.G., K.C.K., T.P., J.H., T.O., J.W., I.S., J.E.O., J.D., C.N., S.G., J.I., E.P., T.S., F.T., C.M., K.W., R.G., C.A., I.S., C.B., J.R.W. and A.J.C. carried out crop model simulations and discussed the results; M.T. and S.N.K., provided experimental data; S.A., F.E., C.R. and J.W.J. wrote the paper.

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Correspondence to S. Asseng or N. Brisson.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Asseng, S., Ewert, F., Rosenzweig, C. et al. Uncertainty in simulating wheat yields under climate change. Nature Clim Change 3, 827–832 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1038/nclimate1916

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