Challenges and Opportunities for Southeast Agriculture in a Changing Climate: Perspectives from State Climatologists

By Knox, Pam; Fuhrmann, Chris et al. | Southeastern Geographer, Summer 2014 | Go to article overview

Challenges and Opportunities for Southeast Agriculture in a Changing Climate: Perspectives from State Climatologists


Knox, Pam, Fuhrmann, Chris, Konrad, Chip, Southeastern Geographer


Agriculture is one of the most sensitive economic sectors to weather and climate variability. In the Southeastern U.S., agricultural production is widespread and diverse, making it a primary source of commerce. As a result, members of the climate community have garnered extensive experience working with farmers and extension agents to address their sensitivities to climate variability and change. One group of individuals that has established a longstanding relationship with the agricultural community is the state climatologists. In this study, the state climatologists from six southeastern states were interviewed to assess the challenges and opportunities faced by the agricultural sector, particularly in dealing with current climate variability and potential future changes to climate. Based on their experiences, the combination of favorable climatic conditions, ample water resources, and diversity in agricultural production makes the Southeastern U.S. unique in its ability to adapt to current climate variability and potential future changes in climate.

KEY WORDS: agriculture, climate variability, climate change, El Nino-Southern Oscillation, climate service

La agricultura es uno de los sectores economicos mas susceptibles al clima y la variabilidad climatica. En el sureste de los EE. UU. la production agricola esta muy extendida y diversa, por lo que es una fuente importante de comercio. Como resultado, los miembros de la comunidad del clima han obtenido una amplia experiencia de trabajo con los agricultores y agentes de extension para hacer frente a su sensibilidad a la variabilidad y el cambio climatico. Un grupo de personas que se ha establecido una relation antigua con la comunidad agricola es los climatologos estatales. En este estudio, los climatologos estatales provenientes de seis estados del sureste eran entrevistado para evaluar los desaflos y oportunidades enfrentado por el sector agricola, particularmente en tratar con la variabilidad climatica actualy los potenciales cambios futuros al clima. Sobre la base de sus experiencias, la combination de condiciones climaticas favorables, amplios recursos hldricos y la diversidad de la produccion agricola se hace que el sudeste de los EE. UU. es unico en su capacidad de adaptation a la variabilidad climatica actual y los potenciales cambios futuros en el clima.

PALABRAS CLAVE: agricultura, variabilidad del clima, cambio climatico, el Nino-Oscilacion del Sur, el servicio climatico

INTRODUCTION

As a society, our sensitivity to climate variability and extreme events has increased dramatically in recent years, and this has created a greater need for climate data and information (i.e. climate service) across a diverse user community (Changnon 2007). Such information is particularly important in the context of adaptation strategies to address potential future changes in climate. The provision of climate services in the United States has generally revolved around data stewardship (e.g. collection, quality control, and dissemination) and the interpretation of data to generate useful climate information, such as analysis tools, products, and applied research, based on interactions with users (Changnon 2007; Brooks 2013). These functions are typically facilitated by climate scientists and climate service providers.

One of the most prominent and enduring organizations involved in climate service is the group of state offices, whose core functions are directed by the state climatologists (AASC 2008). As of December 2013, 48 states and one U.S. territory had an official state climatologist. Most state climatologists are located at universities, although a few are housed in state agencies, and serve as resources for climate information in their states. Collectively, they provide a uniquely regional perspective on climate conditions and vulnerabilities, while individually they provide a local perspective on their state's climate sensitivities. …

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