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Concomitant droughts can threaten global food security

Deepti Singh, Associate Professor at WSU Environmental School. Credit: WSU

Simultaneous droughts in different parts of the globe can put an unprecedented burden on the world’s agricultural system and threaten the water safety of millions of people. Natural climate change..


A research team led by Washington State University analyzed climate, agriculture, and population growth data to generate 40% by mid-21st century and 60% by late 21st century as fossil fuel reliance continues. Showed that it is more likely to do. The second half of the 20th century. This means that agricultural and population exposure to severe co-occurrence droughts will increase approximately nine-fold unless measures are taken to reduce carbon emissions.

“By the end of this century, about 120 million people worldwide could be exposed to severe compound drought at the same time each year,” said the former postdoctoral researcher at the WSU Environmental School in ETH Zurich, Switzerland. Author Jitendra Singh states. .. “Drought is likely to be a disaster, as many of the areas where our analysis is most affected are already vulnerable.”

The increased risk of compound drought estimated by Singh and colleagues is warm, coupled with a 22% increase in the frequency of events in El Nino and La Nino, the two opposite stages of El Nino Southern Vibration (ENSO). It is the result of a drought.

Researchers predict that nearly 75% of future complex droughts will coincide with these irregular but recurring periods of climate change in the world’s oceans. The biggest environmental disaster in the history of the world..

For example, the simultaneous El Nino drought in Asia, Brazil and Africa between 1876 and 1878 led to crop failures during the same period, killing more than 50 million people from famine.

“Although today’s technology and other circumstances are very different from those of the late 19th century, poor crops in multiple breadbaskets can still affect global food availability,” co-author of the study. Deepti Singh, an assistant professor at WSU School, said. Environmental. “This can increase global food price volatility, impact food access, and exacerbate food insecurity, especially in areas already vulnerable to environmental shocks such as drought.”

Researchers’ analysis focused specifically on the 10 regions of the globe that receive most of their rainfall from June to September, have large monthly summer precipitation fluctuations, and are affected by ENSO fluctuations. rice field. This is a factor that increases the likelihood of simultaneous occurrence. Drought.. Some of the areas analyzed include important agricultural areas and countries that are currently facing food and water insecurity.

Their results show that regions in North and South America are more likely to experience complex droughts in warmer climates in the future than in Asia, where much of the farmland is predicted to be moist. increase.

Therefore, foods produced in the Americas can be vulnerable to climatic hazards. For example, the United States is a major exporter of staple grain and currently ships corn to countries around the world. Even the slightest increase in the risk of compound drought in future climates can lead to supply shortages in the region, which in turn can lead to global markets, impact global prices and aggravate food insecurity. There is sex.

“Even if these droughts do not affect major food-producing areas, the likelihood of a food security crisis increases, but they are already affecting many vulnerable areas. Food insecurityWeston Anderson, an assistant research scientist at the Interdisciplinary Center for Earth Systems Science at the University of Maryland, said: To more people at the same time ”

There is some good news, Anderson said. Researchers’ research is based on high fossil fuel emission scenarios, and in recent years the global community has made progress towards reducing carbon emissions, which significantly reduces the frequency and intensity of concurrent droughts by the end of 2009. I am.st century.

Also, the occurrence of nearly 75% of compound droughts alongside ENSO events in future climates highlights the possibility of predicting where these droughts can occur with lead times of up to 9 months. increase.

“This means that the droughts that occur during the ENSO event are more likely to affect the same geographic area as they are today, although they are more severe,” says Deepti Singh. “The ability to predict where these droughts occur and their potential impacts is a plan and effort for society to minimize economic loss and reduce human suffering from disasters caused by such climates. Helps to develop. “

In the future, researchers plan to investigate in detail how co-occurrence droughts affect different aspects of the world. food How networks, vulnerable communities are affected and adapted by such extreme climates, and how societies are better prepared to manage the risks of concomitant disasters.

Collaborators on this project included researchers from WSU, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, University of Massachusetts Lowell, Columbia University, and Indian Institute of Technology-Gandinagar.


Climate crisis can double the frequency of summer droughts in extreme regions of Europe


For more information:
Jitendra Singh et al, Increased risk of concomitant regional drought due to increased volatility and warming of ENSO, Natural climate change (2022). DOI: 10.1038 / s41558-021-01276-3

Quote: Concurrent droughts can threaten global food security (February 9, 2022).

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Concomitant droughts can threaten global food security

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