27 Feb 2023
 | 27 Feb 2023
Status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal HESS.

Seasonal crop yield prediction with SEAS5 long-range meteorological forecasts in a land surface modelling approach

Theresa Boas, Heye Bogena, Dongryeol Ryu, Harry Vereecken, Andrew Western, and Harrie-Jan Hendricks-Franssen

Abstract. Long-range weather forecasts provide predictions of atmospheric, ocean and land surface conditions that can potentially be used in land surface and hydrological models to predict the water and energy status of the land surface or in crop growth models to predict yield for water resources or agricultural planning. However, the coarse spatial and temporal resolutions of available forecast products have hindered their widespread use in such modelling applications that usually require high resolution input data. In this study, we applied sub-seasonal (up to 4 months) and seasonal (7 months) weather forecasts from the latest European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) seasonal forecasting system (SEAS5) in a land surface modelling approach using the Community Land Model version 5.0 (CLM5). Simulations were conducted for 2017–2020 forced with sub-seasonal and seasonal weather forecasts over two different domains with contrasting climate and cropping conditions: the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia and the Australian state of Victoria. We found that, after pre-processing of the forecast products (temporal downscaling of precipitation and incoming shortwave radiation), the simulations forced with seasonal and sub-seasonal forecasts were able to generate a model system response very close to reference simulation results forced by reanalysis data. Differences between seasonal and sub-seasonal experiments were insignificant. The forecast experiments were able to satisfactorily capture recorded inter-annual variations of crop yield. In addition, they also reproduced the generally higher inter-annual variability in crop yield across the Australian domain (approximately 50 % inter-annual variability in recorded yields and up to 17 % in simulated yields) compared to the German domain (approximately 15 % inter-annual variability in recorded yields and up to 5 % in simulated yields). The high and low yield seasons (2020 and 2018) among the four simulated years were clearly reproduced in forecast simulation results. Furthermore, sub-seasonal and seasonal simulations reflected the early harvest in the drought year of 2018 in the German domain. However, the simulated inter-annual yield variability was lower in all simulations compared to the official statistics. While general soil moisture trends, such as the European drought in 2018, were captured by the seasonal experiments, we found systematic over- and underestimations in both the forecast and the reference simulations compared to the Soil Moisture Active Passive Level-3 soil moisture product (SMAP L3) and the Soil Moisture Climate Change Initiative Combined dataset from the European Space Agency's (ESA CCI). These observed biases of soil moisture as well as the low inter-annual variability of simulated crop yield indicate the need to improve the representation of these variables in CLM5 to increase the model sensitivity to drought stress and other crop stressors.

Theresa Boas et al.

Status: open (until 24 Apr 2023)

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Theresa Boas et al.

Theresa Boas et al.


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Short summary
In our study, we tested the utility and skill of one state-of-the-art forecasting product for the prediction of regional crop production using a land surface model. Our results illustrate the potential value and skill of combining seasonal forecasts with modelling applications in generating variables of interest for stakeholders such as annual crop productivity for specific cash crops and regions. In addition, this study provides useful insights for future technical model improvements.