Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Global warming?

The Napa Valley, once again, finds itself featured in the media as the poster child for the potential results of climate change. Perhaps because wine grapes, more than any other crop, are sensitive to vintage temperatures (and climatic conditions in general), and because people are often drawn to the romance of vineyards, and wine production, there is more interest in the farming of wine grapes than say turnips or spuds.
A recent 4 year study led by Dr. Daniel R. Cayan, of Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego, found that average temperatures had only increased by a degree or two (Fahrenheit) over the past several decades, mainly affecting overnight temps rather than daytime temps. That really doesn't surprise me, especially seeing as it is possible for the diurnal/nocturnal temperature differential in Napa to be as much as 40 -50 degrees.
Vinoland's Cabernet sauvignon vines are approximately 80% through veraison. Due to persistent cool temperatures (our second below average summer in a row), it's hard to tell if my pruning experiment this year has had any impact on the maturation of the Cabernet vines. With possibly two full months still until harvest I can only cross my fingers and hope for warm, dry weather during September and through October.
Whilst I do understand that the San Francisco Bay Area is well known for it's diverse micro climates - and it is indeed the cool marine layer that aids in quality grape production in this part of the world - I long for more typical summer temps...it is California after all.
Global warming is awfully cold!

27 comments:

Thomas said...

The reason global warming is "awfully cold" is that you have the terminology wrong: it's global climate change, which means warming in some places but cooling in others, not to mention weird weather disasters here and there, like ice storms in August (Long Island Aug 1; Mosel August 26) and earthquakes and hurricanes inside of a week in the Northeast.

Them that's got hot shall get -- cold.

Thud said...

Monkey and I got pretty excited on our return as we checked out our spuds and turnips.

Vinogirl said...

Thomas: It was until fairly recently that what ailed Mother Earth was known as global warming, and we were all in imminent danger of going up in a puff of smoke.
Having lived the majority of my life on a continent other than north America, I can attest to the fact that the Northwest of England has always been cold, grey, and wet. But, the climate is indeed changing - it's getting colder, greyer, and wetter.
I remain unconvinced.

Thud: Lots of chips in your future then?

Thomas said...

Vinogirl,

Unconvinced about which, that the climate is not changing or that there is no such thing as global warming?

In the nearly 30 years that I've been living in the Finger Lakes I can say without hesitation that the climate has changed. I witness it in the way indigenous plants react and the way invading plants have made progress, and I can see it in the temperature and seasonal durations that my once meticulous record keeping showed.

This year alone I have such an abundance of okra that it is amazing to me that only 15 years ago I could not get the plant to mature. Fifteen years ago possums only rarely showed up here--now they roam. Also, this region was too cold to host the hundreds of thousands of Japanese beetles that now happily feast on plants without fear of a natural predator.

I don't know if it can be classified as global warming, but I am certain that climate change is real here, especially as I roast on Sept 3 in a humid, hot location that reminds me of my years in Maryland and not my early years in the Finger Lakes.

To top it off, over the past decade, this region has three times harvested grapes either before or at the same time as Napa Valley. Unheard of in the past.

Vinogirl said...

Thomas: All of life, as we know it, is cyclical. Of course, the phenomenon known as climate change is real and has been around since before man appeared on the planet. As a child of the 1970s, I distinctly remember the ominous warnings of impending 'global cooling'.
"Sooner or later a major cooling of the climate is widely considered inevitable. Hints that it may have already begun are evident. The drop in mean temperatures since 1950 in the Northern Hemisphere has been sufficient, for example, to shorten Britain's growing season for crops by two weeks." (NY Times,1975).
The claims of global catastrophe were eerily similar then to what the media deliver nowadays about global warming (sorry, let me use the new terminology, climate change).
Another climatic change happened many, many years earlier: The Romans wrote about growing wine grapes in Britain in the first century...and then it got too cold during the Dark Ages. Exercitus Romanorum would not have survived their occupation of ancient Britain without a little vino. Merry England was, once, much warmer than it is today.
As for your Japanese beetles (and possum), do you totally discount that perhaps an evolutionary adaptation has taken place? Personally, I believe in evolution and natural selection...or, the simple disappearance of a predator. When Vinomaker bought Vinoland, there was a distinct scarcity of birds and squirrels...exit resident cats, enter apathetic dogs, and the avian and rodent population of Vinoland is more than thriving.
I think I can hear Darwin spinning in his grave from where I am sitting with my fossil fuel burning laptop.

Thud said...

thomas, vinogirl...It's feckin freezin outside...I want my warming that al gore promised me.

Thomas said...

Vinogirl,

Cyclical indeed, and that's all I'm saying.

I do wonder, however, why people have a knee-jerk reaction against the possibility that we may have accelerated a "natural" process.

As for the possums, and sundry other animals that didn't used to like it here, they seem to coincide with a measurable overall temperature increase.

I have noticed something else: the start of spring has been moved to a later date as well as the end of summer, not to mention the many extended dry spells that we are encountering.

As I've said, it's definitely a climate change happening here. Why or who's responsible is not my issue. How to prepare for a new dynamic should be everyone's issue because, as you've said, it happened before...and may be happening again.

Thomas said...

This one is for Thud:

From 1967-68, I spent a year in Thule Greenland, the farthest northern point where human beings had settled and lived. The Air Force base that I was on was set on permafrost: no trees, no grass, no shit!

Looming north of us was a massive, menacing ice cap. That area appeared in Gore's film and the menacing ice cap was nearly gone, and I am told that Inuits had begun to start farms.

Vinogirl said...

Thud: Get out your thermals!

Thomas: No "knee-jerk" reaction here: I have long been bemused by the arrogance of those who claim to be able to forecast (and control) a climate that is ruled by a sun that still has 5 billion years yet to live.

Thud said...

Thomas...Vikings too farmed in greenland for quite a while untill the cold returned and wiped them out, every generation seems to produce those vain enough to believe we are heading for the end of times...me ..I have faith in the future.

Do Bianchi said...

nearly everyone European winemaker I know says that they believe in global warming. On two separate occasion, two very famous winemakers told that global warming had made them very very rich men.

There's definitely a sense in Italy that the last twenty years have been blessed (?) with a string of good vintages and that harvest is taking place 4-6 weeks earlier than it did when the current generation of winemakers (our parents' age) were children.

Really interesting to read your insight here VinoGirl...

My thought is, whether or not global warming exists or not (and few of us are really qualified to understand what the notion truly connotes), it's time to start taking better care of the earth. Everyone can agree on that, right? Except for Rick Perry! :(

Seriously, awesome post. One of those "why I love this blog" posts...

Vinogirl said...

2B: I agree, we should all take better care of the earth, starting with the immediate piece of the planet that we personally occupy. This is one of the main reasons that I drink local wines, and try to only buy/drink Italian (and other European) wines when I am home in England and in closer proximity to their source.
Drink local wines - burn less diesel.

Thomas said...

Yes, it isn't about playing Chicken Little, it's about two things specifically: humans do abuse the planet, and climate does indeed change.

Thud,

Farming has continued in the extreme southern part of Greenland, where there is grass and are trees; it was going on when I was in the country. Not sure, however, if the Vikings ever got as far north as the Baffin Bay, where I was stationed, and by the time they settled Greenland, the Wisconinan ice age had receded and settled at the pole.

In any event, why do you automatically believe that someone who points out a climate shift going on is an alarmist who sees the end of the world (if that someone isn't Al Gore, that is)? What's wrong with trying to figure out how best to prepare for the shift, so that we are not pushed out by the climate?

Understanding the natural world should not preclude trying to deal with it.

Do Bianchi said...

Vinogirl, easy for you to say, surrounded by all kinds of wine! Here in Texas it's not so easy! ;)

Do you know that cardinals of Avignon during the Babylonian exile complained that they couldn't move back to Rome because they couldn't live without the wines of Burgundy.

Madeira and then later Marsala traveled all over the world with the British navy. But wind-powered ships left no carbon foot print!

I'm with you! :)

Great posts always spark great discussion.

Thomas said...

Do Bianchi,

Don't believe Vinogirl completely. I know for a fact that she drinks Finger Lakes wines on the Left Coast--when she can get them. ;)

Thud said...

It seems I'm in the Rick Perry camp as I don't believe a single word of any global warming nonsense...not a single word.In an hours drive from my home I can visit places that supported vineyards a thousand to two thousand years ago, places that vines would die of fright if planted today...the planet changes with and withjout us

Thomas said...

Thud,

Mi confuso: you consider global warming nonsense yet you are aware that "the planet changes with and without us."

I see nothing inconsistent in the idea that climate change is cyclical and that humans (which now number well over any world population count in the past) are capable of doing things to influence either the speed or the direction of change--or both.

Take a look at this:

http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2010/06/04/1003187107.abstract

Thud said...

Thomas , I don't believe we can influence the climate much one way or the other but I do object to those that would seek to control others by using climate change as a weapon to promote a radical social agenda.

Thomas said...

Thud,

I do believe that there are things we can--must--do to prepare for climate change, especially with regard to agriculture and water resources, which I believe will be the resource behind the start of World War 3.

As for social agenda: it is also true that "deniers" have a social agenda?

When Galileo was crucified for his astrological beliefs, whose agenda was the harmful one?

I prefer to take heed from scientists whose only agenda is the science, and that camp is a consensus over the evidence, no matter which agenda that nutballs like Rick Perry play on the gullible American public.

Vinogirl said...

2B: Sorry about the Texas/locavore thingy, but you do travel enough to do your own version of buying/drinking locally :)

Thomas: In my defense, the Lamoreaux Landing was a gift, the other I must admit I did purchase in a local store, but not without huge pangs of Catholic guilt.
As for scientists, again the consensus in the 70s was that we were all going to starve to death because the globe would soon be too cold to sustain enough agriculture to feed the growing population. Can't scientists can be wrong?...like the ones that report that Antarctica's Adelie penguins are more than happy on their expanding and thickening ice shelf in the Ross Sea.

Thud said...

Yes we deniers have an agenda, it's called being left alone to live our lives as we have without the dictats of our supposed betters. As for Perry, one mans nut job is the next mans president.
vinogirl...scientists wrong?...surely not!

Thomas said...

Yes indeed, scientists can be wrong, as can religions, corporate CEOs of major energy companies, the guy/gal on the street who doesn't realize which agenda is being foisted upon him/her, and all of us who have opinions.

I'm still baffled that you can believe that climate shifts naturally without our intervention, yet you cannot believe that it is happening right now. But just look at history and you are sure to see the results of those past climate shifts. Instead of covering eyes and ears, using what we know from past experience to predict what may come at us in the future is, to me, the smart route.

But I am through now. We had our separate say and we obviously will not change our individual opinions. At least we have not resorted to name-calling--except of course for that nutball ;)

As for nutballs, why is it so hard for them to believe in climate change and so easy to believe that Jonah lived in the stomach of a whale, it's perfectly fine to kill your offspring for the sake of currying favor with God, and a man was crucified, died, and then reborn before trekking off to Nirvana where we all have a spot, should we live the way those without an agenda want us to live, of course?

Thud said...

Thomas, I'm a devout Catholic who doesn't wish or demand anything of you.I think you will find there is a whole world of Christians outside of America who don't subscribe to the more colourful theories of what is a minority of religious Americans I shall hopefuly remain blissful in my ignorance.

Thomas said...

Thud,

I was referring to the Rick Perry-Bachmans of the world, who are both evangelical and divisive, not to mention so very, very right (in both definitions of that word).

As an Italian-American, raised Roman Catholic, I know that Catholics are generally not evangelicals; but as a once practicing Catholic, I still trouble with the logic behind faith in one truly fantastical miracle yet doubt about what is in front of us.

Don't let me bother you: I have a tendency toward measuring logic against reality. It is not directed at anyone specifically. It is as rhetorical as philosophy should be.

Thud said...

Thomas, if you are ever in Vinogirls or my company you would soon find out just why the people of Liverpool have a reputation in England of talking so much...we love to talk and argue above all else, it's been fun.

Thomas said...

Hell, Thud, you obviously ain't been to Brooklyn...but Liverpool sounds just like home to me.

Vinogirl said...

I don't consider myself a "denier", I'm a don't-knower. There is little empirical evidence to suggest a dramatic change in California's climate. It would be very presumptuous of me to believe otherwise as there are no temperature/weather records in this state that go back 500 years, per se. The San Jose area has had a fantastic summer this year, so it is difficult for me to believe in a supposed climate change that is so persnickety that it can be accurate, and localised, to a 90 mile car ride.
It is all a question of the correct scientific facts, and I'm no scientist. On the other hand, those of us who believe in miracles (my favourite being Cana), are quite willing to take a leap of faith.