In vast parts of the world, agriculture is solely rain fed. Failure of rains and occurrence of natural disasters such as floods and droughts can lead to crop failures, food insecurity, famine, mass migration, and negative national economic growth. Agricultural communities around the world have always looked for ways and means to cope with climate variability including the use of various traditional indicators to predict the seasonal climate behaviour.
Climate change, and increasing climate variability, as well as other global environmental issues such as land degradation, loss of biological diversity and stratospheric ozone depletion, threaten our ability to meet the basic human needs of adequate food, water and energy, safe shelter and a healthy environment.
The vulnerability of agriculture to natural climate variability and climate change can be somewhat decreased through more informed policy choices, practices and technologies. Negative impacts of climate change on agriculture can be further reduced by increasing climate knowledge and improving prediction capabilities, which will lead to the development of relevant information and prediction products for applications in agriculture.
However, while farmers are heavily dependant on the climate, farmers can exploit weather and climate services to minimize the impact of these hazards, either by planning to avoid the risk in the first place or by taking precautionary measures when there is warning that a hazard may arise.
Climate Forecasting for Agriculture
The climate forecast community is now capable of providing a multi-scale (in space and time) integrated prediction system that provides skilful, useful predictions of variables with socio-economic interest. For agriculture, climate forecasts must be interpreted in terms of production outcomes at the right scale (e.g. at the local geographical level and seasonal time scale) for farmers and other agricultural decision-makers to benefit.
The forestry sector uses historical climate data to develop strategic plans from planting to harvesting. These decisions cover practices such as zoning land for commercial forestry based on climate suitability, site preparation, regeneration, thinning and fertilizing.
Information on potential climate change is equally important. If the climate changes as the trees grow, the yield could be significantly different to what was expected. Similarly the monitoring of monthly and seasonal variations in sea surface temperatures is enhancing the tactical planning of operations for ocean fishing fleets (e.g. by minimizing time and costs in locating and travelling to fish) and could improve the overall management of the world’s fisheries. Also, the detailed knowledge of such climate events such as El Niño or La Niña can lead deep-ocean Pacific fishing fleets to fishing feeding areas.
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