Climate risk to agriculture: A synthesis to define different types of critical moments

Hassnain Shah*, Petra Hellegers, Christian Siderius

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


Increasing climate variability will put crop production at risk, undermining the sustainability of agriculture-based livelihoods. Much effort has gone into assessing differential vulnerability – or who is at risk. However, the time dimension of increased risk – the when – is often only implicitly included in modelling, statistical and empirical studies. We define and explore the concept of “critical moments” (CMs); that is, periods of heightened risk during the year when farm households are vulnerable to specific climate hazards. The climate modelling, agronomy and socio-economics literature is reviewed to define different types of critical moments. Climate modelling emphasizes hazards but is less specific about the time window of risks in relation to crop cycles. Agronomy research develops cause-and-effect relationships between weather variables and yields by crop stage but generally does not consider hazard frequency and associated vulnerability. Socio-economic research analyses associations between hazards, yields and farm income, but often lacks full process knowledge, neglecting other pathways that contribute to vulnerability. Our synthesis aims to bridge disciplinary silos, and proposes an integrated concept towards risk. In this study, three types of CM are identified: CM's with immediate, compound and shifted impact. The concept of critical moments is novel as it considers direct and indirect impacts as well coping strategies. Viewing climate risk to agriculture through a CM lens can support greater interdisciplinary engagement to identify vulnerabilities and develop and promote effective coping options and user-relevant support mechanisms to reduce vulnerabilities specific to particular places and moments.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100378
JournalClimate Risk Management
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Adaptation
  • Climate services
  • Climate variability
  • Compound risk
  • Coping
  • Critical moment
  • Crop stage
  • Indirect impact


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