The effect of climate change on agriculture


The effects of climate change will be felt by agricultural farmers in Europe over the next decades. Agricultural production is intimately linked with meteorological conditions, and therefore with the state of the climate system. Climate change will impact food production directly through, for instance, rising temperatures, changes in precipitation, and increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration. Also, climate change is expected to increase the interannual climate variability that will affect crop yields in many regions, which is of major importance for agricultural production. The effect of three successive years with poor crop yields may be that a farmer goes out of business due to financial problems. 

Crop growth models can be used to estimate the effect of climate change on crop production. Crop growth models are, however, not capable of simulating certain (future) climate changes, but rather use weather/climate information as input. Therefore climate models are required to project what regions will be exposed to climate change, and to what extent. These boundary conditions can be used as input for crop growth models. Typical meteorological parameters that are used as input include daily values of the maximum and minimum temperature, global radiation, wind speed, vapor pressure, evapotranspiration, and rainfall. All these climate aspects, including their future changes, are very likely better simulated in high-resolution (~25 km) global climate models because the atmospheric circulation patterns are better resolved. Furthermore, the representation of the interactions between climate variables will likely improve in higher resolution models. Higher resolution thus leads to more reliable climate projections which, in turn, can be used to feed crop growth models that simulate responses of crops to future climate change. The improved information from the crop models can be used to inform farmers or policymakers about potential future climate risks for the agricultural sector.

The objective of this MSc thesis is to address what the effect is of climate change on agricultural production. This will be done for several representative regions in Europe that will be selected during the project, based on climatic and agricultural conditions. The candidate will run the crop model for the current and future climate conditions that are representative for the selected regions, and analyze the output of the crop model runs. The climatic data will be provided.

Type of work

Crop modelling, data analysis and visualisation


The climatic input for the crop growth models will be delivered by KNMI


Students with an interest in interdisciplinary work, crop modeling and data analysis


Wageningen University & Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute (KNMI), De Bilt

Start date: Spring 2017 or later


Pytrik Reidsma                                   0317-48 55 78              

Eveline van der Linden                      030-2206 241