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Assessing Predictability of Cotton Yields in the Southeastern United States Based on Regional Atmospheric Circulation and Surface Temperatures

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  • 1 Agricultural and Biological Engineering Department, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida
  • | 2 International Research Institute for Climate and Society, The Earth Institute at Columbia University, Palisades, New York
  • | 3 Agricultural and Biological Engineering Department, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida
  • | 4 Center for Ocean–Atmospheric Prediction Studies, The Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida
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Abstract

The potential to predict cotton yields up to one month before planting in the southeastern United States is assessed in this research. To do this, regional atmospheric variables that are related to historic summer rainfall and cotton yields were identified. The use of simulations of those variables from a global circulation model (GCM) for estimating cotton yields was evaluated. The authors analyzed detrended cotton yields (1970–2004) from 48 counties in Alabama and Georgia, monthly rainfall from 53 weather stations, monthly reanalysis data of 850- and 200-hPa winds and surface temperatures over the southeast U.S. region, and monthly predictions of the same variables from the ECHAM 4.5 GCM. Using the reanalysis climate data, it was found that meridional wind fields and surface temperatures around the Southeast were significantly correlated with county cotton yields (explaining up to 52% of the interannual variability of observed yields), and with rainfall over most of the region, especially during April and July. The tendency for cotton yields to be lower during years with atmospheric circulation patterns that favor higher humidity and rainfall is consistent with increased incidence of disease in cotton during flowering and harvest periods under wet conditions. Cross-validated yield estimations based on ECHAM retrospective simulations of wind and temperature fields forced by observed SSTs showed significant predictability skill (up to 55% and 60% hit skill scores based on terciles and averages, respectively). It is concluded that there is potential to predict cotton yields in the Southeast by using variables that are forecast by numerical climate models.

Corresponding author address: Guillermo A. Baigorria, 256 Frazier Rogers Hall, Agricultural and Biological Engineering Dept., University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611-0570. Email: gbaigorr@ifas.ufl.edu

Abstract

The potential to predict cotton yields up to one month before planting in the southeastern United States is assessed in this research. To do this, regional atmospheric variables that are related to historic summer rainfall and cotton yields were identified. The use of simulations of those variables from a global circulation model (GCM) for estimating cotton yields was evaluated. The authors analyzed detrended cotton yields (1970–2004) from 48 counties in Alabama and Georgia, monthly rainfall from 53 weather stations, monthly reanalysis data of 850- and 200-hPa winds and surface temperatures over the southeast U.S. region, and monthly predictions of the same variables from the ECHAM 4.5 GCM. Using the reanalysis climate data, it was found that meridional wind fields and surface temperatures around the Southeast were significantly correlated with county cotton yields (explaining up to 52% of the interannual variability of observed yields), and with rainfall over most of the region, especially during April and July. The tendency for cotton yields to be lower during years with atmospheric circulation patterns that favor higher humidity and rainfall is consistent with increased incidence of disease in cotton during flowering and harvest periods under wet conditions. Cross-validated yield estimations based on ECHAM retrospective simulations of wind and temperature fields forced by observed SSTs showed significant predictability skill (up to 55% and 60% hit skill scores based on terciles and averages, respectively). It is concluded that there is potential to predict cotton yields in the Southeast by using variables that are forecast by numerical climate models.

Corresponding author address: Guillermo A. Baigorria, 256 Frazier Rogers Hall, Agricultural and Biological Engineering Dept., University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611-0570. Email: gbaigorr@ifas.ufl.edu

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