Climate change threatens the wine industry

Climate change threatens the wine industry

 an unusually late frost swept across Oregon, with overnight temperatures dropping into the high 20s. According to the Oregonian newspaper, the wine-producing region could lose half the grape harvest.

"The buds weren't expecting a frost in April," tweeted Nicholas Kristof, an Oregon farmer and former New York Times columnist.

This climate change threatens the wine industry, exposing them to evening temperatures below freezing.

Early growth is not the only threat to the wine industry from climate change. The most extreme and volatile weather can harm crops in several ways.

"Wineries worldwide face devastating wildfires, polar vortices, torrential rains, hailstorms, and more, as well as persistent year after year warming," Stacker reported for data journalism in November 2021.

According to the Oregon Wine Council, in 2020, Oregon grape producers' revenue was down 34% from 2019, mainly due to wildfires destroying crops. Even crops untouched by fires can suffer from smoke that blocks sunlight. Many California wines from 2020 had their flavor dulled by wildfire smoke.

New York magazine recently explained that "grapes are not the only crop that can be affected by smoke, but their permeable rind, and the extreme sensitivity that allows wines to produce complex and complex wines, make them uniquely vulnerable."

"Wine grapes hate the smoke from wildfires," Andrew Melison, professor of horticulture at Oregon State University, told Yahoo News. Extreme weather events usually harm crops. As the weather becomes less predictable, crop yields become less predictable because severe weather can disrupt many agricultural activities, whether during planting, harvest, or irrigation.

"I had all kinds of things starting to grow in the warmth of March and then getting ready to pop up again," he added. "My most tender plants had flattened from some late cold weather."

It's not just heatwaves and wildfires. Freezing weather can also be caused by climate change. As the temperature difference between the Arctic and other regions powers the jet stream, and the Arctic is warming on the rest of the Earth, the jet stream weakens and is easier to divert. This can lead to more intense and prolonged hail or rain as the jet stream decreases and stays longer, as parts of the south experienced last winter. And for every cold spell or rainy period, there's a heatwave or drought elsewhere on the other side of the jet stream.

Syrah vineyards in California

"Dry periods last longer, and rainy periods are wetter," Melison said. "The cold can travel much deeper into the continent because of this shaky jet stream. We have more erratic rises in temperature, whether cold, hot, wet, or dry."

These conditions - too much or too little rain, high temperatures, or cold - can harm crops, especially grapes, notorious for their fragility.

The majority of American wine comes from the West Coast. California, Oregon, and Washington have experienced increasingly frequent and severe weather events in the past few years, including years of drought; a Thermal dome in the Pacific Ocean over a week as temperatures topped 100 degrees last June; Record-breaking wildfires. I found a study in 2006 conducted that the United States could lose 81% of the best grape-growing areas by the end of the century. (No matter the harsh weather, Canada may see a relative boom in wine production as the temperature range suitable for growing grapes shifts toward the poles.)

Freezing morning temperatures trigger frost protection systems with overhead sprinklers on a California vineyard.

But the effects of climate change on the wine industry are not limited to the West Coast. According to the governmental Panel on Climate Change, agricultural yields are expected to dwindle worldwide as climate change causes severe and unpredictable weather and water shortages.

The Guardian reported that in 2020, France's legendary winemaking region, Burgundy, experienced "the onset of spring followed by an unusual frost that damaged grapes on the vine." The neighboring area of Alsace experienced a shorter grape growing season and an early harvest. Parts of Spain may become too hot to produce wine at all. Wine-producing countries such as Australia and Greece also experienced large-scale wildfires last summer.

"[Climate change] brings problems everywhere, just different problems for different places," Schultz said.

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