From: Deborah Zabarenko, Reuters
Published July 11, 2006 12:00 AM

Climate Change Could Slash U.S. Wine Industry

WASHINGTON — Ready for Cape Cod Cabernet?


Global warming could slash productivity in prime U.S. wine-making areas like California's Napa and Sonoma valleys by century's end, leaving some of the best temperatures for grape-growing in New England, researchers reported Monday.


"We're projecting dramatic decreases in total production in the continental United States and this is really due to the increase in the frequency of extremely hot days in response to elevated greenhouse gas concentrations," climate scientist Noah Diffenbaugh of Purdue University said by telephone.


A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences forecast an 81 percent drop in the U.S. areas suitable to grow premium wine grapes by the year 2099.


Diffenbaugh and his co-authors built on earlier research that suggested little damage to U.S. wine grapes from expected global warming, and even a possible boon for the most expensive wines.


The previous work was based on projections of the mean temperature -- the average, in meteorological terms -- during the growing season, and did not take into account the number of very hot days.


The current study did take daily temperatures into account, and projected a huge increase in the number of days with temperatures above 95 degrees F, which could be damaging to wine grapes.


TOO MANY HOT DAYS


Even the most heat-tolerant grapes can only take this kind of extreme heat for 14 days each season, Diffenbaugh said. The new study projected as many as 50 or 60 such super-hot days in a season.


"The bottom line is it's just too hot, too many days out of the year in too many areas," he said.


Currently, seasonal weather favors wine grapes over much of the Mid-Atlantic region, stretching from Tennessee and Kentucky in the southwest to Massachusetts and New York state in the northeast. In the west, prime wine grapes grow comfortably in valleys and coastal areas of California and valleys in Oregon and Washington state.


The new study projected suitable growing temperatures for premium wine grapes by the end of this century could be confined in the East to northern Pennsylvania, New York state and coastal New England, including Cape Cod in Massachusetts.


On the West coast, wine-producing areas could be limited to a narrow area along the Pacific and in some valleys in Oregon and Washington state, the new study found.


"We see production disappearing essentially in what are the prime producing areas, which is Napa Valley, Sonoma Valley, the Santa Barbara area (in California) and the Willamette Valley (in Oregon)," Diffenbaugh said.


The temperatures might be better for wine grapes in more northern latitudes, he said, but it takes more than temperature to make great wines. Many of the places where temperatures might be favorable in the future have high precipitation rates and high humidity, which can foster mildews and funguses that prey on premium wine grapes, Diffenbaugh said.


Source: Reuters


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