Earth System Model Overestimation of Cropland Temperatures Scales With Agricultural Intensity

Ethan D. Coffel, Corey Lesk, Justin S. Mankin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Intensive crop growth can modify regional climate by partitioning energy to latent heating through transpiration, cooling growing season temperatures. Recent work shows that cooling associated with agriculture can dampen anthropogenic warming over breadbasket regions. However, it is unknown whether climate models reproduce crop influences on regional climate, and thus the future risk of extreme climate events over global breadbasket regions. We show that models overestimate growing season temperatures and underestimate evapotranspiration (ET) over global croplands, and that these differences increase with cropped area. We trace this warm and dry difference through each model's representation of the surface energy budget, showing that model differences in transpiration, leaf area index, and the ratio of transpiration to total ET drive the overall effect. While the implications of these model deficiencies for future projections are uncertain, they point to the importance of improving representations of crop-climate processes to better assess breadbasket vulnerability to climate change.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2021GL097135
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number16
StatePublished - Aug 28 2022


  • CMIP6
  • agriculture
  • climate change
  • extreme heat

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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