Risk of crop failure due to compound dry and hot extremes estimated with nested copulas

Ribeiro, A. F. S., Russo, A., Gouveia, C. M., Páscoa, P., and Zscheischler, J.
Biogeosciences, 17, 4815–4830

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The interaction between co-occurring drought and hot conditions is often particularly damaging to crop's health and may cause crop failure. Climate change exacerbates such risks due to an increase in the intensity and frequency of dry and hot events in many land regions. Hence, here we model the trivariate dependence between spring maximum temperature and spring precipitation and wheat and barley yields over two province regions in Spain with nested copulas. Based on the full trivariate joint distribution, we (i) estimate the impact of compound hot and dry conditions on wheat and barley loss and (ii) estimate the additional impact due to compound hazards compared to individual hazards. We find that crop loss increases when drought or heat stress is aggravated to form compound dry and hot conditions and that an increase in the severity of compound conditions leads to larger damage. For instance, compared to moderate drought only, moderate compound dry and hot conditions increase the likelihood of crop loss by 8 % to 11 %, while when starting with moderate heat, the increase is between 19 % to 29 % (depending on the cereal and region). These findings suggest that the likelihood of crop loss is driven primarily by drought stress rather than by heat stress, suggesting that drought plays the dominant role in the compound event; that is, drought stress is not required to be as extreme as heat stress to cause similar damage. Furthermore, when compound dry and hot conditions aggravate stress from moderate to severe or extreme levels, crop loss probabilities increase 5 % to 6 % and 6 % to 8 %, respectively (depending on the cereal and region). Our results highlight the additional value of a trivariate approach for estimating the compounding effects of dry and hot extremes on crop failure risk. Therefore, this approach can effectively contribute to design management options and guide the decision-making process in agricultural practices.