Global Outlook of Food Supply

The current production of main foodcrops undergoes some trends that are not likely to change very quickly. They can be used to look ahead a couple of years without much risk of being wrong!

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Serious

Food supply trends in 2014, and beyond!

This post analyses the trends of yield, area, and production in the 31 countries that together make up 80 percent of the world supply of maize, rice, wheat, and soybean. These 31 countries (actually 30 + 1, where 1 stands for China) which are the key focus of CropWatch analyses,…

Statistical Vs. agronomic significance in crop monitoring and forecasting

We all develop rules of thumb that help us make operational decisions. One of my personal rules is that “agronomic significance” comes before “statistical significance”. For instance, when assessing regression coefficients, I would discard them regardless of their statistical significance if they don’t make agronomic sense. An example would be…

Crop monitoring dialects

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(First published: 20130210 / Last Updated: 20130508) There are many national and a handful of international crop monitoring and forecasting systems. All maintain websites and publish bulletins, which summarise their analyses for decision makers at the national level and beyond. A collection of national bulletins is available from the WAMIS…

Mixing time series and cross-sectional data

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As I was updating a couple of things in another corner of this blog,  I stumbled upon of  a passage in a recent book by Nate Silver (2012) that has a lot of relevance for crop forecasters. It is relevant to two different but related subjects: (1) averaging different forecasts…

Forecast and even planned: the Vajont dam disaster

The post on the risky business of forecasting is updated every time something happens with the trial of the scientists who failed to predict the L’Aquila earthquake. The trial reminded me of another story that happened in Italy: the Vajont disaster. In this case, the forecast was perfect (and far more certain…

The risky business of forecasting

(First published: 20091016 / Last Updated: 20131116) – Forecasting the future is a difficult task, as there are many more ways to be wrong than right! In addition, a forecast is not just a statement about what might happen, it is also embedded in a context that may be as…

Pandemic or not pandemic: Tipping points & H1N1

Experts I’ve interviewed over the past six years generally agree that such a Next Big One is not only possible but probable. They agree that it will almost certainly be a zoonotic disease — one that emerges from wildlife — and that the causal agent will most likely be a…

Civilisation-ending volcanic winter (note 1)

First published 20120718 /  last updated on 20120924 Is climate change the worst nightmare scenario for our future? We know it is there to stay, and experts tell us daily about what we are to expect (note 2). Nevertheless,  the science of impacts is a very uncertain business, because it…

The cost of hunger and malnutrition

Malnutrition remains the world’s most serious health problem and the single biggest contributor to child mortality. Nearly one-third of children in the developing world are either underweight or stunted, and more than 30 percent of the developing world’s population suffers from micronutrient deficiencies (WB 2006, introduction.) Needless to say, many…

Climate change: vehemence Vs competence

Source: http://gwynteatro.wordpress.com/2011/03/13/climbing-the-ladder-of-inference/

This text by Didier Nordon appeared in February 2011 in Pour la science, the French edition of Scientific American (N.400, Bloc-notes, page 5). Related posts: How difficult it is to be a climatologist. The title is a pun based on a combination of la loi du plus fort (the law…

News from the future

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Version française, cliquez ici. After “The risky business of forecasting“, which focused on  natural disasters, here is a note that looks more closely at the broader picture of our societies. It reviews different articles that have recently shown some skill in forcasting the future. The first comprises of simple power…

Mountain climate(s)

This note about mountain climate is an updated and expanded version of an earlier text I wrote for the website of FAO many years ago (July 2002). Since then, I have left FAO for JRC and I have actually started working on climate related risk issues in a rather mountainous…

Mixing oil, water and food in Saudi Arabia

Updated 20110922 In reaction to the first oil crisis of the mid seventies, the kingdom of Saudi Arabia decided to decrease its dependency on food imports by developing local food production using water from deep, non-renewable aquifers. This has now been going on for about thirty years now, and the…

La famine de 1845 en Irlande

Cette famine me fascine depuis longtemps. J’ai écrit ce petit texte il y a quelques années, et j’ai rassemblé pas mal de documentation sur le sujet. Disons que cette ébauche me servira d’amorce quand je parviendrai à me décider! Cette famine offre un exemple classique de pénurie complexe: les facteurs…

Climate-crop impacts: some data issues

1. Introduction (*) Crop-climate interactions are of relevance for a number of applications, in food security, crop insurance, market planning and climate change impact assessments. All these fields have an interest in crop modelling and forecasting. The interest of forecasting goes beyond the immediate subjects discussed here, as all science…

How difficult it is to be a climatologist…

Just  before COP-15 took place in Copenhagen in December 2009, unknow people broke into the computers of the Climate Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia and stole email correspondence of Prof. Jones, a major figure in the IPCC.  The issue received wide media coverage and was eventually…

Recent rainfall and cattle trends in the Central-Western Sahel

  The graph shows recent trends of climate, urbanisation and a livestock production index (meat and milk). The data stem from various FAO sources: FAOSTAT for the production and population data, while the National Rainfall Indices (NRI) come from CLIMPAG. All variables are aggregated at the level of the “central-Eastern…

Einstein on crises

Below is a text by Einstein, which I got somewhere on the web. I like it because I have always considered that crises are opportunities to change directions. As Le Chatelier had observed, chemical systems tend to resist changes. While we are certainly complex chemical systems, humans are no exception:…

Fun

A practical joke by MicroSoft?

I was very surprised, yesterday afternoon, when my brand-new HP Zbook running Windows 7 crashed after I inserted my good old Huawei broadband wireless USB stick. The crash took the…

The return of the overbite

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By Anna-Giulia, Eric, Jacques and Wergosum [First published on 20130217; updated 20130328] The idea for this note started with an email from Eric, where he expressed his surprise, and his…

God(s) explained, somehow!

(Published 20100908 / Last updated 20121019) — As a student, I read  an article by Rappaport (The sacred in human evolution, 1971) which impressed me a lot. While  maintaining a…

Naming the invisible

Published 20091223/Last updated 20131218 with the quote from Stefan Zweig under “additional information.” … as imagination bodies forth The forms of things unknown, the poet’s pen Turns them to shapes…

Pseudo-ethnicity and neo-dogmatism

First posted on 20111027. Updated 20120214. French version: click here An interesting controversy has been going on for a couple of days in the quiet circles of anthropology. What started…

Driven into the mountains…

While writing the post on mountain climate(s), I wanted to provide examples for the severity of living conditions in temperate mountains. I did the usual thing: I Googled “driven into…

Eurobabel

This post is about the use of languages in the European Commision (EC) and the  European Union (EU). There are at present twenty-two languages, which are designated in the EC…

Are neutrinos faster than thought?

The Super Proton Synchroton (SPS) at CERN  (European Organization for Nuclear Research) is a  very large “machine” (a tunnel, about 7 km in diameter) located on the Swiss-French border near…

Xenophobia: who’s immune?

The extreme right, xenophobia and nationalism are gaining ground in many countries in Europe. Sometimes (Belgium), the situation borders on the ridiculous, but no-one dies! In Norway, after a bomb…

The mandate of humanity

God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of…