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A Climate for Change - Ethan Coffel

July 9, 2021

April 22, 2021 | Rob Enslin

Ethan Coffel informalAs New York state farmers brace for another growing season, they are likely to feel the heat of global warming, says Syracuse University professor Ethan Coffel.

Coffel is principal investigator on a three-year National Science Foundation (NSF) grant project exploring the link between climate and agricultural change—a process known as the crop-climate feedback cycle. He says that while staple food crops may see sharp declines in yields from global warming, agricultural adaptations, like moving crops to cooler latitudes, may reduce some of the damage. “Precipitation and temperature have huge impacts on crop growth,” he explains. “Some places have much lower yields because they’re too dry, wet or hot.”

Coffel studies how crop growth affects local climate, which in turn impacts crop production. “Research shows that crop growth actually cools the local climate in some of the world’s most agriculturally productive regions,” says Coffel, an assistant professor of geography and the environment in both the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs and the College of Arts and Sciences. “This mitigates the effects of hot temperatures and boosts crop yields.”

By observing different crop-climate feedback cycles, he can assess the future risk of climate-driven food insecurity as well as the potential for economic losses in agricultural regions. “I want to develop adaptation strategies to increase the climate resilience of food production,” says Coffel, who earned a Ph.D. in atmospheric science from Columbia University.

Read the full story via the SU News website.

Published in the Summer 2021 issue of the Maxwell Perspective

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