Seminar: Angela Rigden

Thursday, February 11, 2021 - 12:00pm

Angela Rigden

Postdoctoral Fellow, Harvard University

The importance of soil moisture in predicting agricultural yields:
From regional processes toward a global scale analysis

Understanding the response of agriculture to environmental stressors is essential to adapt food systems to climate change. Although evidence of crop yield loss with extreme temperature is abundant, quantifying the response of yield to water availability has proven challenging. This is largely due to limited soil moisture data and the tight coupling between soil moisture and temperature at the land surface.

In this seminar, I will discuss my work developing a statistical model that resolves the yield response to both soil moisture and atmospheric demand using remotely sensed observations. When the model is applied across the Midwestern United States for maize, results suggest that yield damages are overestimated by approximately double if rising atmospheric demand is considered without the moderating effect of changing soil moisture. Then, I will demonstrate how this model can be applied in regions with poorly resolved yield data by highlighting a case study in Kenya. In this application, I leverage satellite-based observations of solar-induced fluorescence to downscale nationally reported yields prior to determining the climate dependence. Preliminary results indicate that an analogous downscaling procedure can be applied to many countries across the globe. To conclude, I will outline a roadmap for determining the global hydrologic vulnerability of agriculture to climate change by coupling observational datasets (remotely sensed soil moisture and solar-induced fluorescence, crop distribution maps, and weather station measurements), statistical models, and climate model simulations.


Angela Rigden is a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard University in both the Department of Earth and Planetary Science and Harvard’s School of Public Health. She is a former Planetary Health Alliance Postdoctoral Fellow, which is supported by the Rockefeller Foundation. She
obtained her PhD at Boston University in 2017 from the Department of Earth and Environment and her BS at Cornell in 2012. Angela’s work centers on developing data-driven, multi-scale tools to understand biosphere-atmosphere interactions in a changing world. She uses a  wide variety of observations in her research, including data from eddy covariance towers, weather stations, satellites, and global climate models. Her most recent work focuses on the statistical modeling of agricultural yields from a hydrological perspective.


To receive the login information for this virtual seminar, please contact Terri Tippets at ttippets@carnegiescience.edu