Evaluation of downscaling seasonal climate forecasts for crop yield forecasting in Zimbabwe

Chinyoka, S.; Steeneveld, G.J.


Meteorology and weather forecasting are crucial for water-limited agriculture. We evaluate the added value of downscaling seven-months global deterministic seasonal forecasts from the Climate Forecast System version 2 (CFSv2) using the Weather, Research and Forecasting (WRF) model over Zimbabwe for ten growing seasons (2011–2021). Downscaling reduces the area of significant differences between forecasted and observed total seasonal rainfall. Downscaling also improves the score for droughts as measured through the standardized precipitation index and 3-class method. Yield forecasts by the WOrld FOod STudies (WOFOST) model reveal that downscaling improves the estimated growing season evolution and maize yield in all studied regions across the country. For the main maize production region Karoi, the bias, root mean square error, mean absolute error and mean absolute percentage error reduce by 33% (0.2 ton/ha), 27% (0.4 ton/ha), 31% (0.4 ton/ha) and 27% (8.3 %) respectively by downscaling. Hence we illustrate that downscaling the deterministic seasonal forecasts may assist in food security in a crucial area in southern Africa.