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Climate Change Unlikely to Affect NZ Wine Industry

25 October 2006

Climate Change Unlikely to Affect NZ Wine Industry

There is no evidence to suggest that the climate is warming as suggested in recent Australian viticultural articles, at least in New Zealand. Consequently there is no reason to believe growing conditions will alter beyond past experiences for the New Zealand wine industry, according to one of its leading scientists, Dr Alan Limmer, proprietor of Stonecroft Wines Ltd in Hawkes Bay, and immediate past chair of the research committee of the industry organization, New Zealand Winegrowers.

He was commenting on a report from Australia about the effects on that country's vineyards that climate change will cause a drop in wine quality. "What this demonstrates is the danger of over-emphasising computer modelling at the expense of actual observations," said Dr Limmer who has published in the most recent issue of industry magazine New Zealand WineGrower the climatic data of his last 17 vintages. "If we are to believe what we're being told about global warming, my harvest dates should have been getting earlier, but they haven't.

"There has been variation, with cold seasons in 1992 and 1993 following the Mt Pinatubo eruption, when residual volcanic ash in the atmosphere screened out solar warmth, and warmer seasons in 1998 and 1999 following the 1998 El Nino southern oscillation. Since then, we have steadily tracked down to the 17-year average. My recent harvest dates, if anything are slightly later than they were in the late 1980's.

"Primary industries such as ours have to learn to cope with significant climatic variations that have always naturally occurred. Computer projections of future climate are just that - projections , based on some 'best guess' and 'what if' scenarios, but cannot and should not be taken as firm predictions. For instance, they cannot predict volcanic or El Nino events. It is simply not possible at present to make futuristic climatic predictions. We do not even understand the drivers for historic climate change,” said Dr Limmer.


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