Warming Winter Season Threatens Fruit Production

The independent organization Climate Central reports that the winter season has warmed across most of the United States since 1970. Their analysis notes that although cold weather still happens in a warming climate, the winter season is less cold than it was half a century ago, and winter is the fastest-warming season in a majority of the U.S states. Furthermore, an analysis of winter temperatures indicates that 98% (236) of 242 cities had an increase in average winter temperatures from 1970, with the highest increases around the Great Lakes and Northeast region. The Climate Central materials explain that cherry, apple, and peach trees require a minimum number of winter chill hours before they can develop fruit in the subsequent spring and summer months. In a warming climate, the winter’s chill period is decreasing and could eventually become insufficient for fruit development in the areas where the trees are currently planted. For example, the “Peach State” of Georgia is facing peach production challenges to its iconic fruit. The online Climate Toolbox will allow users to calculate how many chill hours are projected in a specific location, to determine how warming winters will affect agriculture.