Trend assessment of changing climate patterns over the major agro-climatic zones of Sindh and Punjab

Abstract

The agriculture sector, due to its significant dependence on climate patterns and water availability, is highly vulnerable to changing climate patterns. Pakistan is an agrarian economy with 30% of its land area under cultivation and 93% of its water resources being utilized for agricultural production. Therefore, the changing climate patterns may adversely affect the agriculture and water resources of the country. This study was conducted to assess the climate variations over the major agro-climatic zones of Sindh and Punjab, which serve as an important hub for the production of major food and cash crops in Pakistan. For this purpose, the climate data of 21 stations were analyzed using the Mann–Kendall test and Sen's slope estimator method for the period 1990–2022. The results obtained from the analysis revealed that, in Sindh, the mean annual temperature rose by ~0.1 to 1.4°C, with ~0.1 to 1.2°C in cotton-wheat Sindh and 0.8 to 1.4°C in rice-other Sindh during the study period. Similarly, in Punjab, the mean annual temperature increased by ~0.1 to 1.0°C, with 0.6 to 0.9°C in cotton-wheat Punjab and 0.2 to 0.6°C in rainfed Punjab. Seasonally, warming was found to be highest during the spring season. The precipitation analysis showed a rising annual precipitation trend in Sindh (+30 to +60 mm) and Punjab (+100 to 300 mm), while the monsoon precipitation increased by ~50 to 200 mm. For winter precipitation, an upward trend was found in mixed Punjab, while the remaining stations showed a declining pattern. Conclusively, the warming temperatures as found in the analysis may result in increased irrigation requirements, soil moisture desiccation, and wilting of crops, ultimately leading to low crop yield and threatening the livelihoods of local farmers. On the other hand, the increasing precipitation may favor national agriculture in terms of less freshwater withdrawals. However, it may also result in increased rainfall-induced floods inundating the crop fields and causing water logging and soil salinization. The study outcomes comprehensively highlighted the prevailing climate trends over the important agro-climatic zones of Pakistan, which may aid in devising an effective climate change adaptation and mitigation strategy to ensure the state of water and food security in the country

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