Agricultural risks from changing snowmelt - Article in Nature Climate Change

April 2021: Our article is highlighted by the editors of Nature Climate Change
In celebration of the tenth anniversary of Nature Climate Change our article is highlighted as one of 11 outstanding contributions.

20 April 2020: Snowpack stores cold-season precipitation to meet warm-season water demand. Climate change threatens to disturb this balance by altering the fraction of precipitation falling as snow and the timing of snowmelt, which may have profound effects on food production in basins where irrigated agriculture relies heavily on snowmelt runoff.

In an article published today in Nature Climate Change global patterns of snowmelt and agricultural water uses are analyzed to identify regions and crops most dependent on snowmelt water resources. Hotspots exist primarily in high-mountain Asia (the Tibetan Plateau), Central Asia, western Russia, western U.S., and the southern Andes. Using projections of sub-annual runoff under warming scenarios, basins are identified that are most at risk from changing snowmelt patterns. Under the 4-degree Celsius warming scenario, the researchers project that the share of irrigation water demand met by snowmelt in the San Joaquin Basin (US) decreases from 33 percent to 18 percent. In the Colorado Basin (US), the share of water demand met by snowmelt decreases from 38 percent to 23 percent and in the River Po basin (Northern Italy) even from 29 percent to 9 percent. The study highlights basins and crops where adaptation of water management and agricultural systems may be especially critical in a changing climate.

The Division Agronomy contributed simulation results for crop specific monthly irrigation water requirements at global scale to the study and collaborated with 11 research teams from US-American universities.

Link to the article in Nature Climate Change
Link to the press release of the University of Göttingen

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