Climate Change in the Grain Belt

September 10, 2008

image of sun and corn

PSL researcher Marty Hoerling gave an invited presentation entitled, "Climate Change in the Grain Belt," on September 10 at the 2008 Corn and Climate Conference in Ames, IA. His presentation focused on the fact that since 1895 there has not been a warming of temperatures in the Corn Belt during the growing season. It is important for researchers to sort out the reason why, since historical data does not show the warming that would be anticipated from green house gas increases. Increased precipitation has kept this region cool, which is favorable to corn yields. It is unknown why it has been wetter during this period, but is most likely attributable to natural variations in climate.

There appears to be a tendency for corn yield to be compromised when temperatures are elevated. It is possible that temperature values in the growing season could increase in the Corn Belt as much as 6-7°F or more by the end of the century. If this comes to pass, there are indications that corn yield would suffer—but by how much is uncertain. Since there has not yet been any warming in this region, it is unclear what, if any, action should be taken. There could be proponents that might discount any action being taken now for warming that could come later. ESRL's Director, Sandy MacDonald, also gave a presentation at this Workshop entitled, "Probability of Extreme Climates." NOAA co-sponsored this special extension of the Growing the Bioeconomy Conference to assess recent climate trends in the Midwest, as well as seasonal and long-term climate assessments.

Contact: Marty Hoerling