Exploring the efficiency of bias corrections of regional climate model output for the assessment of future crop yields in Europe

A.M.R. Bakker, J.J.E. Bessembinder, A.J.W. de Wit, B.J.J.M. van den Hurk, S.B. Hoek

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15 Citations (Scopus)


Excessive summer drying and reduced growing season length are expected to reduce European crop yields in future. This may be partly compensated by adapted crop management, increased CO2 concentration and technological development. For food security, changes in regional to continental crop yield variability may be more important than changes in mean yields. The assessment of changes in regional and larger scale crop variability requires high resolution and spatially consistent future weather, matching a specific climate scenario. Such data could be derived from regional climate models (RCMs), which provide changes in weather patterns. In general, RCM output is heavily biased with respect to observations. Due to the strong nonlinear relation between meteorological input and crop yields, the application of this biased output may result in large biases in the simulated crop yield changes. The use of RCM output only makes sense after sufficient bias correction. This study explores how RCM output can be bias corrected for the assessment of changes in European and subregional scale crop yield variability due to climate change. For this, output of the RCM RACMO of the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute was bias corrected and applied within the crop simulation model WOrld FOod STudies to simulate potential and water limited yields of three divergent crops: winter wheat, maize and sugar beets. The bias correction appeared necessary to successfully reproduce the mean yields as simulated with observational data. It also substantially improved the year-to-year variability of seasonal precipitation and radiation within RACMO, but some bias in the interannual variability remained. This is caused by the fact that the applied correction focuses on mean and daily variability. The interannual variability of growing season length, and as a consequence the potential yields too, appeared even deteriorated. Projected decrease in mean crop yields is well in line with earlier studies. No significant change in crop yield variability was found. Yet, only one RCM is analysed in this study, and it is recommended to extend this study with more climate models and a slightly adjusted bias correction taking into account the variability of larger time scales as well
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)865-877
JournalRegional Environmental Change
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • weather generator
  • global radiation
  • change scenarios
  • era-interim
  • variability
  • precipitation
  • projections
  • simulation
  • uncertainty
  • circulation

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