Australia’s Heatwave Threatens Wine Industry
Sat, April 10, 2021

Australia’s Heatwave Threatens Wine Industry

Australia has endured its hottest day on record, reaching an average temperature of 40.9C or 105.6F / Photo by: 80 trading 24 via Wikimedia Commons

 

Australia has endured its hottest day on record, reaching an average temperature of 40.9C or 105.6F. This creates an “ominous” start for the nation’s wine industry as grapes, particularly in the Hunter Valley, are at risk of being affected by bushfire smoke and sun damage. This is according to the British daily newspaper The Guardian. 

The Bureau of Meteorology (BoM), which provides official weather forecasts and weather radar, said that the country experienced “extensive” heat on Tuesday that surpassed its January 7, 2013 record of 40.3C. The new record comes as the country is battling a bushfire crisis and severe drought. Forecasters have also predicted that the recent 40.9C heat record could be broken again as the “most intense heat” is expected to come later. 

Australia has become so hot that a post of social media user Stu Pengelly from Perth went viral after he shared a photo on Facebook that he successfully cooked a 1.5kg pork roast inside his car for 10 hours on a 39-degree day. He shared that his car even has tinted windows and the window and door seals were also shut to prevent the vehicle from getting as hot as it potentially could. He warned, “Do not leave anyone or anything precious to you in a hot car, not for a minute.”

What Causes Heatwave in the Country?

The main climate driver is the positive Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) also known as the Indian Niño. IOD is the irregular oscillation of the sea-surface temperatures that makes the western Indian Ocean alternately warmer (positive phase) and the eastern part of the ocean colder (negative phase).  Hot air likewise sweeps across the continent. The BoM added that dry soil also means less evaporation.

Heatwave and Effects on the Vines

The Australian Wine Research Institute explains that heatwave conditions can lead to a significant grape bunch and leaf loss. Vineyards in Victoria and South Australia also experience serious crop losses because of the heatwave. The grape-bearing plantations that are most seriously affected are those that have no or limited water reserved for irrigation. The reserved water should last the entire duration of a heatwave and two to three months before the onset of the warmer season.

When grapevine tissue temperature exceeds 45-degree Celsius, it may lead to negative effects on the fruit composition and wine quality. University of Melbourne’s viticulture professor Snow Barlow said that the impact of smoke taint in the country could be severe. Bushfire can also spread through the skin of the grapes while they ripen, creating unpleasant smoky characteristics to the affected grapes.

The Australian Wine Research Institute highlights the importance of preparing for the next heatwave season to prevent significant crop loss. It also matters to put the vine in a better position, such as by implementing less frequent but longer irrigations at the depth of root activity, to make the most of soil moisture during warmer seasons.

The Australian Wine Research Institute explains that heatwave conditions can lead to a significant grape bunch and leaf loss. Vineyards in Victoria and South Australia also experience serious crop losses because of the heatwave / Photo by: envasa via Pixabay

 

Annual Wine Production

Our World in Data, a platform that provides data and research on global problems, shares Australia’s annual wine production in the following years, measured in tonnes per year: 1991 (394,289.00t), 1994 (587,377.00t), 1997 (617,379.00t), 2000 (806,300.00t), 2003 (1.09 million t), 2004 (1.47 million t), 2006 (1.43 million t), 2007 (961,972.00 t), 2011 (1.12 million t), 2013 (1.23 million t), and 2014 (1.19 million t).

The vineyard area data of the Australian Bureau of Statistics also show that the total vineyard area in Australia is now 135,133 hectares with approximately 6,251 grape growers and 2,468 wineries employing 172,736 full and part-time employees across 65 winegrowing regions in the country, contributing more than $40 billion every year to the economy.

This only shows how damaging the heatwaves can be in the country not only for the crops but also to the number of people working in the industry and those consuming the products. 

Climate Emergency in Australia

Australia’s government has received criticism domestically and internationally because of the inadequate climate record. For instance, Australia is one of the countries with the highest carbon dioxide emissions per capita as it continues to rely on coal-fired power. BBC also reported that some 20,000 people protested in Sydney to demand from the government urgent action on climate change amid bushfires. Many of the protesters accused the government of inaction to an “approaching climate emergency.” Pregnant women were seen wearing baby bump shirts and printed on these shirts were the words “It’s getting hot in here." The expectant moms were likewise holding slogans that said “Stop burning our babies’ futures.”


Aboriginal people in Australian town Alice Springs are also worried that the weather has become too hot for them, to the point that it threatens their survival. 

Although the science around climate change is not easy to comprehend, extreme weather events like the heatwave should be a major concern not just for growers but for the people as a whole. Everyone can act on it in their own little ways by gradually reducing their carbon footprint. 

Australia’s government has received criticism domestically and internationally because of the inadequate climate record. For instance, Australia is one of the countries with the highest carbon dioxide emissions per capita as it continues to rely on coal-fired power / Photo by: Marcus Wong via Wikimedia Commons