Growing Grapes During the Next Grand Minimum

Russ Steele

Reading the article below about a cold snap in New Zealand and the devastating impact on the local vineyards started me thinking about the challenge of wine grape growing during the next grand minimum.

Some Central Otago vineyards lost as much as 50% of their crop after devastating frosts hit the region over the weekend.

Temperatures plummeted to as low as -5.5 degrees Celsius in some areas, rendering frost-fighting techniques next to useless.

ooo

Gibbston Valley and Central Otago viticulturist and consultant Timbo Morrison-Deaker described the damage as “particularly ugly” and the worst he could recall. “Gibbston as a sub-region looks 40% gone and Lowburn is about 25% gone. Those are significant figures.”

The severe weekend frosts follow a disastrous Northern Hemisphere season, reportedly the worst in 50 years, and had already led to predictions of a worldwide shortage of grapes, said Mr Morrison-Deaker.

More details HERE on the damaging frost.

In an old blog I wrote about about the impact a PDO switch from a warm phase to cool phase could have on wine grapes growing in the Sierra foothills. During my research I discovered this study.

Influence of climate variability on wine regions in the western USA and on wine quality in the Napa Valley by Gregory V. Jones* and  Gregory B. Goodrich

ABSTRACT: Trends in climate variables important to winegrape production in the western United States include fewer frost days, longer growing seasons and higher spring and growing season temperatures. These trends have been related to a steady increase in wine quality and a decrease in year to year variability. While the trends in climate have been linked to increasing sea surface temperatures (SSTs) in the eastern Pacific, it is unknown whether this is caused by climate change or may be part of natural oscillations in the Pacific. In this study, fifteen climate variables important to winegrape production were analyzed for ten wine regions over the western USA. The variables were stratified by phases of the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) both separately and then in combination (modulation effect) to determine if there are any significant differences between teleconnections. Wine Spectator vintage ratings for Cabernet Sauvignon wines from the Napa Valley were also stratified in the same method and multivariate statistics were used to determine which variables are most important to wine quality. ENSO phase by itself was not found to be important to either climate variability in wine regions in the western USA or wine quality in Napa Valley, but the cold phase of the PDO was found to be associated with increased spring frosts and a shorter growing season that results in lower ratings relative to warm PDO. The combination of neutral ENSO conditions during the cold phase of the PDO was nearly always associated with low quality wine in the Napa Valley, which is a function of cold springs with increased frost risk, cool growing seasons, and ripening period rainfall (cold PDO) and above average bloom and summer rainfall (neutral ENSO). While climate trends to generally warmer growing seasons with less frost risk have occurred, this research highlights the impact of climate variability on wine quality where, should the PDO return to a multi-decadal cold phase, wine growers in the Napa Valley and across the western USA will likely experience greater variability in wine quality.

We are now in a cold phase our local vineyards have experiences some significant damage from late spring frosts and cool summers, according a discussion I had with a local Sierra Foothills wine maker recently.

I have highlighted some areas in the study that pertain to this discussion. If a cold phase PDO will have an impact on wine grapes, then a temperature decline associated with a grand minimum could have a more significant impact over a potentially longer period than a PDO switch.

Wine grapes, depending on the variety, require a range of degree days for the berries to mature with enough sugar to make great wine.  The scientist at UC Davis have developed a systems for determining the number of degree days needed by grapes in California by region.  According to Wikipedia:

The system is based on the hypothesis that grapevines do not grow if the temperature is below 50 °F (10 °C). Days in the growing region (assumed under the system to be April 1 through October 31 in the Northern Hemisphere; October 1 through April 30 in the Southern Hemisphere) are assigned degree days according to the amount that the day’s average temperature exceeds this threshold; one degree day per degree Fahrenheit over 50 °F. In places where SI units are preferred, degrees Celsius over 10 °C may be used, but should be multiplied by 1.8 to convert to Fahrenheit degree days for the following list. All days in the locale are then added up, with the sum used to determine the region’s classification as follows:
▪    2,500 degree days or less: Region I
▪    2,501–3,000 degree days: Region II
▪    3,001–3,500 degree days: Region III
▪    3,501–4,000 degree days: Region IV
▪    Greater than 4,000 degree days: Region V
The system is used officially in California, and other United States growing regions.

Most of the grapes in California are grown in Region II and Region III to take advantage of local conditions. Now suppose that the climate cools by 2º to 4º C reducing the number of days when the temperature is above 10º C, thus reducing the number of degree days.

The earth has cooled over the past 16 year and we may be on the cusp of the Next Grand Minimum. During the last Grand Minimum, it was no longer possible to grow wine grapes in England, were grapes are growing today in Southern England.

The Maunder Minimum and the Little Ice Age extended from 1400 to 1850, but it is essentially still too cold to grow wine grapes successfully in most of England.  However, in 1068 AD, 938 years before today, Britain’s tax officials reported in the Domesday Book that nearly 50 British vineyards were growing wine grapes. Romans were also reported to have grown wine grapes in Britain when they occupied the island.  German wine grapes are not grown as high on the hillsides today as during the Medieval Warm Period.

Wine grapes are one of humanity’s most accurate and sensitive indications of temperature in the pre-thermometer era. Please pay attention to how the wine grapes are growing and surviving in your neighborhood. If you have some details please share them in the comments.

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Early Winter on Three Continents, China, UK and USA

Russ Steele

Sitting in my Northern California Sierra Foothills den we are waiting for some early snow from Brutus, as the Weather Channel has decided to call the cold storm sweeping out of the Gulf of Alaska into the  Northwestern US, including Northern California. We are not expecting record snows, but time will tell.

Ice Age Now has details on the Eastern US Storm, that followed quickly on hurricane Sandy.

Central Park reported 4.4 inches of snowfall yesterday, shattering the 1878 record of 0.1 inches. Not only setting a record for a Nov. 7, it was the earliest 4-inch snowfall total in the park’s history, NBCNewYork.com reported. By Thursday morning the total had reached 4.7 inches.

Snow storms are unusual at this time of year in the New York City area. In fact, it’s the first time in recorded history that snowfall has ever been recorded at Islip, N.Y., Kennedy and LaGuardia airports.

Bridgeport, Conn., saw 3.5 inches, almost doubling the former record of 2.0 inches set in 1953.

Newark, N.J. reported 2.0 inches; far surpassing the previous record of a trace amount in 1981.

Parts of southern New Jersey saw more than 9 inches, while 6.1 inches was recorded at Newark Airport, which canceled most flights in advance of the storm.

Nassau County’s Malverne recorded 6.5 inches, while Brooklyn’s Sheepshead Bay had 3 inches. Flushing in Queens saw 7 inches, the Bronx’s Riverdale had 4.4 inches, and 6.4 inches was recorded in Great Kills on Staten Island.

The Weather Channel forecast three inches of snow in Philadelphia, and six to 12 inches in southeastern New York and New England.

The NoTricksZone has more details on China and the UK:

Heavy snows . . . hit China, hitting Peking with full force, according to German online Bild daily, which writes:

Snow Alarm in China! The capital Peking has been paralyzed by a winterstorm. […] The situation is worse in the countryside regions of North China. In the Yanqing region 47 cm of snow fell in just a few hours, entire villages have been cut off, thousands are without power and heat. […] A group of Japanese tourists got caught in drifting snow while on the Great Wall; three women froze to death.”

Winter also paid an early visit last weekend in England, reports the Daily Mail, with snow falling in the South and West Country, including in Somerset, Dorset, Wiltshire and Devon. The Mail writes that “the snowfall was England’s fifth in nine days  amid an early winter”. and that “temperatures plunged to -5.6C last night at Aboyne, Aberdeenshire, with -4.3C Redesdale Camp, Northumberland, and -0.9C at Brize. The Weather Service says temperatures are up to 5°C below normal.

Remember this is just weather, but if early winter comes year after year, then we may start considering the possibility that we are on the cusp of the next grand minimum.

Fuel Prices with Regression Lines Starting in 2012.

I have updated the fuel prices, shortened the data to 1 June 2010 and added a regression line to see the over all trends.

Note the jump in gas prices in Sept 2012 that never went a way. I have been unable to find a good reason for the jump. While gas prices continue to decline, the disparity between CA and US continues.  While gas prices are declining, diesel prices are essentially flat.  Reader comment on the gas price disparity are most welcome.

You comments are most welcome. Please post your comments here.

Wine Grape Production as a Climate Change Indicator

Russ Steele

In November of 2007 I wrote a post at NC Media Watch Why should grape growers worry about a cold phase PDO? This was in responses to a paper written by Gregory V. Jones and  Gregory B. Goodrich Influence of climate variability on wine regions in the western USA and on wine quality in the Napa Valley 

ABSTRACT: [emphasis added] Trends in climate variables important to wine grape production in the western United States include fewer frost days, longer growing seasons and higher spring and growing season temperatures. These trends have been related to a steady increase in wine quality and a decrease in year to year variability. While the trends in climate have been linked to increasing sea surface temperatures (SSTs) in the eastern Pacific, it is unknown whether this is caused by climate change or may be part of natural oscillations in the Pacific. In this study, fifteen climate variables important to wine grape production were analyzed for ten wine regions over the western USA. The variables were stratified by phases of the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) both separately and then in combination (modulation effect) to determine if there are any significant differences between teleconnections. Wine Spectator vintage ratings for Cabernet Sauvignon wines from the Napa Valley were also stratified in the same method and multivariate statistics were used to determine which variables are most important to wine quality. ENSO phase by itself was not found to be important to either climate variability in wine regions in the western USA or wine quality in Napa Valley, but the cold phase of the PDO was found to be associated with increased spring frosts and a shorter growing season that results in lower ratings relative to warm PDO. The combination of neutral ENSO conditions during the cold phase of the PDO was nearly always associated with low quality wine in the Napa Valley, which is a function of cold springs with increased frost risk, cool growing seasons, and ripening period rainfall (cold PDO) and above average bloom and summer rainfall (neutral ENSO). While climate trends to generally warmer growing seasons with less frost risk have occurred, this research highlights the impact of climate variability on wine quality where, should the PDO return to a multi-decadal cold phase, wine growers in the Napa Valley and across the western USA will likely experience greater variability in wine quality.

We are now in a cold phase PDO with a La Niña weather pattern. During cold phases the La Niña is the dominate pattern, and we can expect more of these cold events like we have had in 2010 and 2011 over the next twenty to thirty years. The impact of cool phase PDO could be amplified by the return of another grand minmum.

Lisa Baertlein, wrote about the current impact of the cool and wet conditions in Reuters on the 19th of October, Cool California weather keeps winemakers waiting

Growers around the Golden State are harvesting grapes later than usual this year. The take is anticipated to be smaller than normal, due to heavy spring rains and the second summer in a row of cooler-than-normal temperatures.

Here in Nevada County the wine grape production in 2010 dropped by 31 percent. Yields were significantly down, due primarily to hail and frost at critical moments, according to a County Ag Report.  A cool phase PDO is not uniformly cold, the climate will vary from warm to cold and back again, riding on a declining temperature trend. This uncertainty will make wine grape growing a risky business. The Reuters article has some insight into 2011 crop decline, and 2012 has the potential to be repeat of 2010. Stay tuned, as we maybe on the cusp of the next grand minimum. The last grand minimums restricted grape growing in England and other northern countries in Europe due to shortened growing season and cool to cold summers.  I will continue to track the decline in wine grape production as a climate change indicator.

Can we really trust government scientists to deal with a cooling world?

Russ Steele

A long string of current events are beginning raise questions about the ability of government scientist to deal effectively with the facts. In the past I have questioned the ability of CARB and EPA scientist to present global warming facts truthfully, but now I will have to add the Interior Department.  This is another agency that is twisted the facts to meet their agendas. Now Congressman Tom McClintock and U. S. District Court Judge Oliver Wagner are questing the ability of the Interior Department to deal with the facts.

Continue reading “Can we really trust government scientists to deal with a cooling world?”

Is Your City Wasting Precious Resources On Climate Change?

Russ Steele

According to a story in at KQED Climate Watch there are not as many communities as some would like preparing for climate change. Change which some scientist say is caused by CO2 emissions. Others scientist say it is the sun in conjunction cosmic rays and clouds. However, the warmers at the puzzle palace in Sacramento, including the ring master Jerry Brown are in the warmers camp. “Climate denial propaganda is very powerful, but California is standing against it,” Brown said. “Part of my job is to advance the truth of science.”

“Speaking at the National Clean Energy Summit on Aug. 30 in Las Vegas, California Gov. Jerry Brown stated: ”Climate change will create floods, droughts, forest fires of greater intensity and regularity, and with far greater devastation.” He asserted that many of the people who once denied that tobacco was harmful are now well-financed “climate deniers.”

 This is stuff right out of Al Gore Play Book.  According to the KQED article:

Continue reading “Is Your City Wasting Precious Resources On Climate Change?”

Nails in California’s economic coffin — ignoring reality.

Russ Steele

Joel Kotkin takes a look at Rick Perry’s influence on Texas’ economic success in an article that first appeared in Forbes. Link to the full article is here.

The part of Kotkin’s article that I found most interesting was the role of the energy sector in job Texas creation.  California is desperate to turn it’s growing unemployment around, but is unwilling to follow the Texas example.  Yes, Texas has benefited from higher energy prices, but in California the opposite it true, higher energy cost are reducing employment.  Companies are moving to Texas.

Kotkin writes:

To be sure, Texas has benefited from higher energy prices, as Perry’s detractors point out. According to an analysis by the EMSI economic forecasting group, the energy sector jumped from over 230,000 jobs in 2001 to just under 490,000 in 2011. That’s roughly 10% of all the state’s overall job gains. This parallels job growth in other states that have experienced surges in energy-related employment — such as North Dakota and Wyoming. 

But some of this has to do with making your own “luck.” Energy-rich California has all but declared war on its fossil fuel industry, once one of the nation’s most important. Instead, the state has placed lavish bets on renewable fuel and the much ballyhooed notion that “green jobs” could provide a massive base for new employment — something even the green-friendly New York Times has called “a pipe dream.” In fact, employment in this field has actually started to tick down, and the prospect of ever higher energy prices associated with “clean” fuels could prove another nail in California’s economic coffin.

What does all this have to do with the Next Grand Minimum? California is investing huge sums in “green energy” and “clean fuels” that are designed to reduce CO2, all to satisfy environmentalist who are trying to save the planet from global warming. Yet, the planet is not warming and we are spending billions that will be needed to deal with a decline in agriculture production,  resulting from shorter growing seasons as we enter The Next Grand Minimum. If California has a robust economy, we will be better prepared to deal with the problem created by cooling world. Drill baby dril!

I recommend that you read all to the Kotkin article here.