National Aeronautics and Space Administration

National Climate Assessment

NASA National Climate Assessment (NCA) Activities

NASA Indicators Solicitation Proposals

Development and Testing of Potential Indicators for the National Climate Assessment

Lead PI and Center: Alex Ruane, NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies
Title: The Agricultural Productivity Indicator Analysis System (APIAS): Tracking the Agricultural Impacts of Climate Variability and Change

The National Climate Assessment will benefit from an indicator directly assessing and tracking the effects of climate change and climate variability on US agriculture, a critical sector of the US economy and global food system that is uniquely susceptible to climate impacts.  While policymakers are working to manage associated risks, long-term planning is hindered by the high number of confounding stresses that affect reported agricultural production each year.  The proposed research will use NASA models and missions to produce the Agricultural Productivity Indicator Analysis System (APIAS), consisting of a high resolution gridded crop model (parallel DSSAT, or pDSSAT) driven by a coordinated set of observed and constructed climate normals:

Climate Normal A (Observations): The previous 30 growing years of daily climate using a bias-corrected version of the NASA Modern-Era Retrospective-Analysis for Research and Applications (MERRA).  Output from a pDSSAT simulation output driven by this climate normal forms the core indicator of simulated crop production.  Analysis allows the previous year to be placed in the context of the current climate normal and enables examination of regional performance and climate-induced trends.

Climate Normal B (Smoothed Observations): The previous 30 growing years of daily climate smoothed to remove sub-seasonal climate variability and extreme events but maintaining mean radiation, mean temperatures, and seasonal rainfall totals.  By comparing this indicator to the indicator above we can determine the effects of sub-seasonal climate variability and extremes in comparison to the signal of mean climate change and major modes of interannual variability.

Climate Normal Set C (GCM Scenarios): A subset of climate scenarios generated by combining observations with changes projected by CMIP5 climate models to represent the preceding 30-year climatology and the upcoming 30-year climatology.  A comparison of these indicators (and the trend between the two periods) to the observed record places recent agricultural events and trends in the context of past and near-future climates, allowing an assessment of the changing probabilities of events and the performance of climate model projections against the observed trends. 

APIAS' open and transparent framework will 1) enable an investigation of direct climate impacts on the production of major commodities at county, regional, and state levels; 2) identify hot spots for proactive adaptation; 3) elucidate uncertainties in agriculture and climate models for a wide variety of stakeholders, policymakers, and end-users; and 4) provide a firm basis for climate impact and attribution analyses in the agricultural sector.