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Are regional climate models relevant for crop yield prediction in West Africa ?

Oettli P., Sultan B., Baron C., Vrac M.. 2011. Environmental Research Letters, 6 (014008) : 9 p..

DOI: 10.1088/1748-9326/6/1/014008

This study assesses the accuracy of state-of-the-art regional climate models for agriculture applications in West Africa. A set of nine regional configurations with eight regional models from the ENSEMBLES project is evaluated. Although they are all based on similar large-scale conditions, the performances of regional models in reproducing the most crucial variables for crop production are extremely variable. This therefore leads to a large dispersion in crop yield prediction when using regional models in a climate/crop modelling system. This dispersion comes from the different physics in each regional model and also the choice of parametrizations for a single regional model. Indeed, two configurations of the same regional model are sometimes more distinct than two different regional models. Promising results are obtained when applying a bias correction technique to climate model outputs. Simulated yields with bias corrected climate variables show much more realistic means and standard deviations. However, such a bias correction technique is not able to improve the reproduction of the year-to-year variations of simulated yields. This study confirms the importance of the multi-model approach for quantifying uncertainties for impact studies and also stresses the benefits of combining both regional and statistical downscaling techniques. Finally, it indicates the urgent need to address the main uncertainties in atmospheric processes controlling the monsoon system and to contribute to the evaluation and improvement of climate and weather forecasting models in that respect.

Mots-clés : modèle de simulation; climatologie; plante de culture; Évaluation de l'impact; rendement des cultures; modèle mathématique; sénégal; afrique occidentale

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