I study the dynamics of climate variability and its relation to food security using reanalysis products, remote sensing observations and model simulations. I’ve recently been working on how global-scale modes of climate variability pose a correlated risk to major agricultural production regions. I am currently an Earth Institute Fellow working on climate and food security with Lisa Goddard and Walter Baethgen at the IRI. For more information on my professional activities and my research see my Publications page, Google Scholar, or download my CV.
Earth Institute Postdoctoral Research Fellow
The International Research Institute fro Climate and Society (IRI)
weston [at] iri.columbia.edu
Our global food production system is based on the idea that crop failures are independent of one another. Read a (short!) blog post on why our research challenges this idea and how recent events support our conclusions.
Trans-Pacific ENSO teleconnections pose a correlated risk to global agriculture (pdf)
Life cycles of the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and its associated teleconnections evolve over multiple years at a basin-wide scale. This analysis is the first attempt to characterize the structure of the risk posed by trans-Pacific ENSO teleconnections to wheat, maize and soybean production. We find that ENSO poses a correlated risk to crop production in the greater Pacific basin. Most ENSO teleconnections relevant for crop flowering seasons are the result of a single trans-Pacific circulation anomaly that forms in response to a tropical Matsuno-Gill-type response to SST forcing. Trans-Pacific ENSO teleconnections are often (but not always) offsetting between major producing regions in the Americas and those in China or Australia.
Life cycles of agriculturally-relevant ENSO teleconnections in North and South America (pdf)
The El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) has proven to be a major driver of global crop yield variability, at times responsible for simultaneous crop failures in multiple countries. However, the temperature and precipitation teleconnections attributable to ENSO are systematic, and therefore present an opportunity to improve planning at large scales. Here we analyze how multi-year ENSO life-cycles lead to correlated risks for major crop-producing countries in North and South America.
Crop production variability in North and South America forced by life-cycles of the El Niño Southern Oscillation (pdf)
In this analysis we show how globally coherent teleconnections from ENSO life-cycles lead to correlated crop production anomalies in North and South America. We estimate the magnitude of ENSO-induced Pan-American production anomalies and discuss how increasing crop harvesting frequency may increase Pan-American production variability, which we demonstrate has occurred in regions of Brazil that have shifted to a safrinha cropping cycle.
Drought in East Africa is a recurring phenomenon with significant humanitarian impacts. Given the steep climatic gradients, topographic contrasts and general data scarcity that characterizes the region, there is a need for spatially distributed, remotely derived monitoring systems to inform national and international drought response. In this analysis we apply a suite of remote monitoring techniques to characterize the temporal and spatial evolution of the2010–2011 Horn of Africa drought.