Academic Commons


Trans-Pacific ENSO teleconnections pose a correlated risk to agriculture

Anderson, Weston B.; Seager, Richard; Baethgen, Walter E.; Cane, Mark A.

The El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is a major source of interannual climate variability. ENSO life cycles and the associated teleconnections evolve over multiple years at a global scale. This analysis is the first attempt to characterize the structure of the risk posed by trans-Pacific ENSO teleconnections to crop production in the greater Pacific Basin region.

In this analysis we identify the large-scale atmospheric dynamics of ENSO teleconnections that affect heat and moisture stress during the growing seasons of maize, wheat and soy. We propose a coherent framework for understanding how trans-Pacific ENSO teleconnections pose a correlated risk to crop yields in major agricultural belts of the Americas, Australia and China over the course of an ENSO life cycle by using observations and a multi-model ensemble of climate anomalies during crop flowering seasons.

Trans-Pacific ENSO teleconnections are often (but not always) offsetting between major producing regions in the Americas and those in northern China or Australia. El Niños tend to create good maize and soybean growing conditions in the US and southeast South America, but poor growing conditions in northern China, southern Mexico and the Cerrado in Brazil. The opposite is true during La Niña. Wheat growing conditions in southeast South America generally have the opposite sign of those in Australia. Furthermore, multi-year La Niñas can force multi-year growing season anomalies in Argentina and Australia.

Most ENSO teleconnections relevant for crop flowering seasons are the result of a single trans-Pacific circulation anomaly that develops in boreal summer and persists through the following spring. During the late summer and early fall of a developing ENSO event, the tropical Pacific forces an atmospheric anomaly in the northern midlatitudes that spans the Pacific from northern China to North America and in the southern midlatitudes from Australia to southeast South America. This anomaly directly links the soybean and maize growing seasons of the US, Mexico and China and the wheat growing seasons of Argentina, southern Brazil and Australia. The ENSO event peaks in boreal winter, when the atmospheric circulation anomalies intensify and affect maize and soybeans in southeast South America. As the event decays, the ENSO-induced circulation anomalies persist through the wheat flowering seasons in China and the US.


Also Published In

Agricultural and Forest Meteorology