AMS briefing tomorrow: weather, climate, & food

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the American Geophysical Union (AGU), the American Meteorological Society (AMS), and the American Statistical Association (ASA) present:

Weather, Climate, and Food

Friday, March 25, 2011

10:00 AM to 11:30 AM
Room SR-328A Russell Senate Office Building
United States Senate
Washington, DC

*This event is part of the AMS Climate Briefing Series (, which is made possible, in part, by a grant from the National Science Foundation’s Paleoclimate Program*


Dr. Donald A. Wilhite, Director of the School of Natural Resources and Professor of climatology at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Dr. Michael Roberts, Assistant Professor of Agricultural and Resource Economics at North Carolina State University


Paul Higgins, Ph.D. Associate Director, American Meteorological Society Policy Program


Speaker: Donald A. Wilhite

Title: Improving Drought Management in the U.S.: Are We Making Progress in Breaking the Hydro-illogical Cycle?

Drought is a normal part of the climate for all regions of the United States.  It is often characterized as an insidious, creeping phenomenon.  Over the past two decades, severe drought conditions have affected nearly all portions of the nation and resulted in serious economic, social, and environmental impacts.  These impacts reflect our increasing vulnerability to extended periods of water shortage due to drought conditions.  Although we have made considerable progress in our attempts to improve drought management, we continue to largely operate in a reactive, crisis management mode when severe drought conditions occur in the country.  This presentation will focus on our recent experiences with drought in the U.S. and our need to move to a more pro-active, risk-based management approach that emphasizes improved monitoring and early warning systems, the implementation of risk-based mitigation measures, and the development of preparedness plans and policies.  Given projections of climate change and the rapid movement of population to the water-short western states, it would be expedient to implement a more risk-based drought management policy now, as called for in the National Drought Policy Commission’s report to Congress in 2000.

Speaker: Michael Roberts

Title: Extreme Heat, Crop Yields, and the Potential Effects of Climate Change on World Food Prices
The effects of climate change on United States agricultural production is of central importance for world food prices because the US is the world’s largest producer and exporter of staple food commodities.  Historical records show a strong and pervasive link between extreme heat and crop yields.  Extrapolating this historical relationship to weather projected under the Hadley III climate model indicates yield declines of over 20 percent for key crops during the period 2020-2049, even if CO2 emissions are markedly reduced.  Projected declines rise to over 80 percent for the period 2070-2099 under business-as-usual CO2 emission scenarios.  While CO2 fertilization and worldwide shifts in growing areas will likely offset these losses, they nevertheless portend a distinct possibility of rapidly rising staple food prices.  The economic impacts of these price rises would fall disproportionately on world’s poor while possibly even benefiting rich exporting countries like the United States.


Dr. Donald A. Wilhite is director of the School of Natural Resources and Professor of climatology at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, U.S.A.  Prior to this position, Dr. Wilhite was the Founder and Director of the National Drought Mitigation Center and the International Drought Information Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.  Dr. Wilhite’s research and outreach activities have focused on issues of drought monitoring, planning, mitigation, and policy and the use of climate information in decision making.  He has authored or co-authored more than 130 journal articles, monographs, book chapters, and technical reports.  Dr. Wilhite is editor or co-editor of numerous books on drought and drought management and is currently editing a new book series on Drought and Water Crises to be published by CRC Press.

Michael Roberts is an Assistant Professor of Agricultural and Resource Economics at North Carolina State University.  Before joining the faculty at NCSU, Michael worked for USDA’s Economic Research Service.  His research focuses on the intersection of agricultural and environmental economics.  He has published many journal articles on the effects of US agricultural policies on production, land use, and the size of farms.  Since leaving USDA, his research has focused increasingly on the potential effects of climate change on production of staple food grains and how biofuel growth has contributed to rising world food prices and food price variability.  He is also doing research on the design of procurement auctions, with an eye toward finding simple and cost-effective ways to buy environmental services like carbon sequestration from farmers and landowners.


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