Using Regional Forecasts to Enhance Crop Assessments in Countries at Risk of Food Insecurity: GEOGLAM Crop Monitor for Early Warning in Collaboration with UCSB Climate Hazards Center
The Group on Earth Observations Global Agricultural Monitoring (GEOGLAM) Crop Monitor for Early Warning (CM4EW) is an initiative that provides multi-source and consensus-based monthly assessments on agro-climatic conditions in countries at risk of food insecurity to strengthen the decision making of humanitarian organizations and government agencies. The CM4EW report, which is published on the Crop Monitor website the first Thursday of every month, provides insight into regional and country-specific conditions for in-season staple crops, including how the season has progressed so far and how the crops are developing. CM4EW partners with experts from organizations concerned with food security that already monitor crop conditions as part of their early warning activities to provide a timely consensus assessment of crop conditions.
Recognizing the critical role of climate forecasts in early warning, in 2018, CM4EW partnered with the University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB) Climate Hazards Center (CHC) to provide global and regional climate outlooks that give insight into weather events that may impact crop outcomes, such as precipitation and temperature anomalies, as well as the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO). USCB CHC utilizes climate and crop models, satellite-based earth observations, and socioeconomic data sets to predict and monitor drought and flood hazards. By combining satellite rainfall observations with short-term and seasonal forecast information in the regional text, CM4EW is better able to provide projections of potential crop outcomes based on expected climatic conditions. In turn, concerns for poor production can help trigger food aid and import measures to combat food insecurity.
For example, in the most recent CM4EW May 2020 report, the Southeast Asia regional text outlined concerns due to poor precipitation throughout the growing season and shortage of irrigation water. In the north of the region, this is expected to lead to below-average yields of dry season rice and has already led to decreased planted area of wet season rice. In Indonesia, the dry conditions are also expected to decrease yield of wet season rice harvests and have delayed planting of dry season rice. In addition to the regional text, UCSB CHC contributed the Southeast Asia regional outlook, which demonstrated that below-average rains are forecast to continue in the north of the region through May, while above-average rains are expected in Indonesia (Figure 1).
By including the forecast information with the regional discussion, CM4EW was able to emphasize continuing concerns in northern Southeast Asia due to expected rainfall deficits and the potential for two poor crop cycles in a row. Additionally, the forecasts indicated a potential reprieve of dry conditions in Indonesia, which will benefit planting operations of dry season rice and lessen concern for final production. With the inclusion of the Southeast Asia regional forecast, the CM4EW report provided a comprehensive picture of past and present crop conditions, as well as potential future production outcomes.
As forecast information is critical in providing encompassing forward-looking crop assessments, CM4EW and UCSB CHC are collaborating to expand the forecasting component of CM4EW to all seven regions covered in the CM4EW monthly reports in the near future. Currently, CM4EW regional the forecasts cover East Africa, Southern Africa, the Middle East and North Africa, Southeast Asia, and Central America and the Caribbean. These forecasts will expand to cover West Africa and Central and South Asia, which will improve early detection of droughts, floods, and rainfall anomalies that threaten production and food security in these regions. The additional regional outlooks will also aid the development of evidence-based crop assessments that subsequently strengthen the decision making of humanitarian organizations and local and national governments.