Italy, France Heat Wave, And Your Next Bottle Of Wine
Italy is experiencing a prolonged heat wave and little rain this summer. Experts say it’s the worst drought in 70 years in the country.
The heat and lack of rain being experienced, particularly in the Po Valley, are drying up the rivers and causing significant concern to the agriculture sector in what usually is one of the country’s breadbaskets.
“It’s the perfect storm, less than 70 percent of snow in the winter, four months of lack of rain, temperatures three or four degrees higher than the seasonal average,” said Meuccio Berselli, secretary-general for the district authority of the Po Valley.
He added that the Po River – Italy’s largest freshwater source vital for irrigation, like many other Italian rivers and lakes, has much less water this summer, raising fears for crops in all parts of the country.
Italy’s National Research Council says there has been half the amount of rain this year compared to the average in the last three decades and up to 60 percent less in northern regions.
Seasonal Harvest Threatened
Coldiretti, Italy’s largest agriculture union, has warned that drought threatens 30-40 percent of the national seasonal harvest.
Some regions have independently chosen to ration water and taken extraordinary measures to restrict water usage for certain activities.
Civil protection chief Fabrizio Curcio said that it could not be ruled out that in some areas, rationing of water will also lead to a temporary closure, even during the day.
He added that close attention is being paid to temperatures and changes in water levels. Authorities do not exclude that a state of emergency may also need to be declared for other regions in Italy.
Twenty-three departments across France have been put on high alert, with temperatures expected to hit over 40°C by the weekend.
However, the worst is yet to come, with temperatures expected to surpass the 40°C mark by Friday.
Forecaster Météo-France has activated the orange “heatwave alert” for 23 departments across the south-west, from Anjou to the Pyrenees, including a “heat dome” in the Drôme/Ardèche regions.
A heat dome occurs when an area of high pressure remains over the same region for days or weeks, trapping very warm air underneath, like a lid on a pot.
In the wake of the hot air mass from the Maghreb via Spain, maximum temperatures have been fluctuating between 30 and 35°C in the country’s south.
Earliest heatwave On Record in France
“This is the first time that the heat wave has reached a peak [so early], with temperatures of 35°C to 39°C across much of the country, from the Garonne to the north-east, including the Rhone Valley, the Paris region, and the Centre Val-de-Loire,” according to Tristan Amm, a forecaster with Météo-France.
Attributed to global warming, heatwaves are multiplying worldwide, including in France, where this latest episode is the earliest on record.
The heatwave also has a devastating effect on the dryness of the soil after an arid spring and winter, driving up the risk of forest fires.
The Effect Of Heat On Grapes
In the summer of 2003, Europe experienced a devastating heat wave.7 Annual precipitation was as much as 12 inches (300 millimeters) below normal, leaving most of the continent in a drought.8 (See the hotspot on De Bilt, the Netherlands, for more on this record European heat wave.)
Damages to the agricultural sector were estimated at more than U.S. $16 billion (more than €13 billion), with nearly one-third of the losses occurring in France.8,9,10,11 European wine production hit a 10-year low.10
The 2003 heat wave suggests that further warming of Bordeaux’s climate may not benefit wine production. According to one study, an increase in the number of days above 86° F (30° C) when grapevines were flowering hastened grape ripening, and the resulting longer growing season correlated with lower productivity and lower-quality grapes.6
This is our concern for the coming year.
- Luterbacher, J., D. Dietrich, E. Xoplaki, M. Grosjean, and H. Wanner. 2004. European seasonal and annual temperature variability, trends, and extremes since 1500. Science 303:1499-1503. ↑
- Alcamo, J., J.M. Moreno, B. Nováky, M. Bindi, R. Corobov, R.J.N. Devoy, C. Giannakopoulos, E. Martin, J.E. Olesen, and A. Shvidenko. 2007. Europe. In: Climate change 2007: Impacts, adaptation, and vulnerability. Contribution of Working Group II to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Edited by M.L. Parry, O.F. Canziani, J.P. Palutikof, P.J. van der Linden, and C.E. Hanson. Cambridge University Press, pp. 541-580. ↑
- Fink, A.H., T. Brücher, A. Krüger, G.C. Leckebusch, J.G. Pinto, and U. Ulbrich. 2004. The 2003 European summer heatwaves and drought: Synoptic diagnosis and impact. Weather 59:209-216. ↑
- Easterling, W.E., P.K. Aggarwal, P. Batima, K.M. Brander, L. Erda, S.M. Howden, A. Kirilenko, J. Morton, J.-F. Soussana, J. Schmidhuber, and F.N. Tubiello. 2007. Food, fibre and forest products. In: Climate change 2007: Impacts, adaptation and vulnerability. Contribution of Working Group II to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Edited by M.L. Parry, O.F. Canziani, J.P. Palutikof, P.J. van der Linden, and C.E. Hanson. Cambridge University Press, pp. 273-313. ↑
- Sénat. 2004. France and the French face the canicule: The lessons of a crisis. Information report no. 195, pp. 59-62. Online at http://www.senat.fr/ rap/ r03-195/ r03-195.html. Accessed May 13, 2010. ↑
- Meehl, G.A., and C. Tebaldi. 2004. More intense, more frequent, and longer lasting heatwaves in the 21st century. Science 305:994-997. ↑
- Christensen, J.H., B. Hewitson, A. Busuioc, A. Chen, X. Gao, I. Held, R. Jones, R.K. Kolli, W.-T. Kwon, R. Laprise, V. Magaña Rueda, L. Mearns, C.G. Menéndez, J. Räisänen, A. Rinke, A. Sarr, and P. Whetton. 2007. Regional climate projections. In: Climate change 2007: The physical science basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Edited by S. Solomon, D. Qin, M. Manning, Z. Chen, M. Marquis, K.B. Averyt, M. Tignor, and H. L. Miller. Cambridge University Press. ↑
- The emissions scenario referred to here is the high-emissions path known as A2 from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. ↑
- Beniston, M., D.B. Stephenson, O.B. Christensen, C.A.T. Ferro, C. Frei, S. Goyette, K. Halsnaes, T. Holt, K. Jylhä, B. Koffi, J. Palutikof, R. Schöll, T. Semmler, and K. Woth. 2007. Future extreme events in European climate: An exploration of regional climate model projections. Climatic Change 81:S71-S95. ↑
- Schär, C., and G. Jendritzky. 2004. Climate change: Hot news from summer 2003. Nature 432:559-560. ↑
- White, M.A., N.S. Diffenbaugh, G.V. Jones, J.S. Pal, and F. Giorgi. 2006. Extreme heat reduces and shifts United States premium wine production in the 21st century. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 103:11217-11222. ↑