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  1. Abstract

    US maize and soy production have increased rapidly since the mid-20th century. While global warming has raised temperatures in most regions over this time period, trends in extreme heat have been smaller over US croplands, reducing crop-damaging high temperatures and benefiting maize and soy yields. Here we show that agricultural intensification has created a crop-climate feedback in which increased crop production cools local climate, further raising crop yields. We find that maize and soy production trends have driven cooling effects approximately as large as greenhouse gas induced warming trends in extreme heat over the central US and substantially reduced them over the southern US, benefiting crops in all regions. This reduced warming has boosted maize and soy yields by 3.3 (2.7–3.9; 13.7%–20.0%) and 0.6 (0.4–0.7; 7.5%–13.7%) bu/ac/decade, respectively, between 1981 and 2019. Our results suggest that if maize and soy production growth were to stagnate, the ability of the crop-climate feedback to mask warming would fade, exposing US crops to more harmful heat extremes.

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  4. Abstract

    Nonlinear increases in warm season temperatures are projected for many regions, a phenomenon we show to be associated with relative surface drying. However, negative human health impacts are physiologically linked to combinations of high temperatures and high humidity. Since the amplified warming and drying are concurrent, the net effect on humid-heat, as measured by the wet bulb temperature (TW), is uncertain. We demonstrate that globally, on the hottest days of the year, the positive effect of amplified warming onTWis counterbalanced by a larger negative effect resulting from drying. As a result, the largest increases inTWandTxdo not occur on the same days. Compared to a world with linear temperature change, the drying associated with nonlinear warming dampens mid-latitudeTWincreases by up to 0.5 °C, and also dampens the rise in frequency of dangerous humid-heat (TW > 27 °C) by up to 5 d per year in parts of North America and Europe. Our results highlight the opposing interactions among temperature and humidity changes and their effects onTW, and point to the importance of constraining uncertainty in hydrological and warm season humidity changes to best position the management of future humid-heat risks.

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  5. Abstract

    Groundwater extraction in the United States (US) is unsustainable, making it essential to understand the impacts of limited water use on irrigated agriculture. To improve this understanding, we integrated a gridded crop model with satellite observations, recharge estimates, and water survey data to assess the effects of sustainable groundwater withdrawals on US irrigated agricultural production. The gridded crop model agrees with satellite‐based estimates of evapotranspiration (R2 = 0.68), as well as survey data from the United States Department of Agriculture (R2 = 0.82–0.94 for county‐level production and 0.37–0.54 for county‐level yield). Using the optimistic assumption that groundwater extraction equals effective aquifer recharge rate, we find that sustainable groundwater use decreases US irrigated production of maize, soybean, and winter wheat by 20%, 6%, and 25%, respectively. Using a more conservative assumption of groundwater availability, US irrigated production of maize, soybean, and winter wheat decreases by 45%, 37%, and 36%, respectively. The wide range of simulated losses is driven by considerable uncertainty in surface water and groundwater interactions, as well as accounting for the many aspects of sustainability. Our results demonstrate the vulnerability of US irrigated agriculture to unsustainable groundwater pumping, highlighting the difficulty of expanding or even maintaining irrigated food production in the face of climate change, population growth, and shifting dietary demands. These findings are based on reducing pumping by fallowing irrigated farmland; however, alternate pumping reduction strategies or technological advances in crop genetics and irrigation could produce different results.

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