California Vineyards Face Massive Climate Crunch By 2040 - Up To 50% Loss of Premium Growing Land

napa vineyard photo

photo: Naotake Murayam/Creative Commons

Will this get more people to care about climate? Fingers crossed.

New research published in Environmental Research Letters shows that climate change may shrink the amount of prime wine growing land in California by 50% in just 30 years. The study looked at California's premium wines (the 25% most expensive wines sold) and examined how a 23% increase in greenhouse gases by 2040, a conservative climate scenario, would affect production in Napa and Santa Barbara Counties in California, as well as Yamhill County in Oregon and Walla Walla County in Washington.

The results were that all four countries would experience higher average temperatures during growing season, with an increase in days over 95°F.

In the experiment, the scientists divided premium grape varieties into separate categories based on their tolerance to different temperature ranges. For example, Napa Valley - widely known for its pinot noir, cabernet sauvignon and other premium wines - has historically experienced growing seasons with an average temperature of less than 68 F (20 C) and fewer than 30 very hot days. Grapes that thrive in that climate have done well there.

According to the study, the average temperature in Napa Valley during the growing season could increase as much as 2 F (1.1 C), with the number of very hot days increasing by 10. As a result, the amount of land with historically hospitable growing conditions could shrink by half over the next three decades, the study found. In Santa Barbara County, the amount of suitable grape-growing acreage with similar climate conditions is projected to decline by more than 20 percent as temperatures rise. (Science Codex)

In Washington, those grape varieties sensitive to very hot days could see a 30% reduction in suitable growing area.

That's the bad news.

The better news is that study found that Oregon fared better, seeing "a slight increase in the amount of total suitable acreage and a large increase in are area suitable for more valuable varieties."

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