Napa doesn’t seem to be warming, despite some predictions

If the predictions in this just-released study are true, then Napa Valley will be too hot for fine winemaking in a generation or so. That being the case, today’s young bloggers, who hope to make money writing about wine someday, might find it in their interests to take up residence in Billings or Fort St. John, and focus on the budding wine industries of Montana and British Columbia.

I believe in climate change, but I do think that the term “global warming” is misleading. It doesn’t seem to be getting warmer everywhere. My own opinion, for what it’s worth, is that coastal California–which includes Napa and Sonoma–is getting cooler, at least in the summers, because the interior West is getting warmer, creating a vast thermal low pressure system that sucks in air from the west. And, as we all know, to our west is a large, cold body of water. The Sacramento Valley may be heating up, but our little coastal strip seems safe.

Indeed, the San Francisco Chronicle, citing meteorological analyses, reported in 2011 that “California’s coastal regions appear to be getting more rain and cold weather while inland areas such as Fresno are getting hotter.”

The reason? “If you have more warm days in the Central Valley, you are going to have a stronger sea breeze so you will cool off the coastal areas. That certainly does not contradict any of the models about global warming. This is what is to be expected.”

Is the eastern Pacific Ocean cooling or warming? I don’t know, but neither do climatologists. As far as I can determine, the cyclical effects of El Nino and La Nina are the biggest drivers of the ocean’s temperature. The former warms it, the latter cools it. At any rate, I don’t think anyone expects the eastern Pacific to warm up dramatically enough to impact California viticulture anytime soon.


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