Lengthening of the growing season in wheat and maize producing regions

Brigitte Mueller, Mathias Hauser, Carley Iles, Ruksana Haque Rimi, Francis Zwiers, Hui Wan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Human-induced increases in atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations have led to rising global temperatures. Here we investigate changes in an annual temperature-based index, the growing season length, defined as the number of days with temperature above 5 °C. We show that over extratropical regions where wheat and maize are harvested, the increase in growing season length from 1956 to 2005 can be attributed to increasing greenhouse gas concentrations. Our analyses also show that climate change has increased the probability of extremely long growing seasons by a factor of 25, and decreased the probability of extremely short growing seasons. A lengthening of the growing season in regions with these mostly rain-fed crops could improve yields, provided that water availability does not become an issue. An expansion of areas with more than 150 days of growing season into the northern latitudes makes more land potentially available for planting wheat and maize. Furthermore, double-cropping can become an alternative to current practices in areas with very long growing seasons which are also shown to increase with a warming climate. These results suggest that there is a strong impact of anthropogenic climate change on growing season length. However, in some regions and with further exacerbated climate change, high temperatures may already be or may become a limiting factor for plant productivity.
Original languageEnglish
JournalWeather and Climate Extremes
Early online date1 May 2015
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2015


  • Growing season length
  • Climate change
  • Detection Attribution
  • Crop production


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