Hard Freeze: California Wine Country

I mentioned earlier today that my friend Jan Null, former lead forecaster for the NWS in San Francisco and now operator of Golden Gate Weather Service pointed out that a number of cold records were set overnight. Looks like we are in for a second night, and it looks even colder for some areas. Napa’s wine valley may hit 26-27 tonight. 2011 may not be a good year for wine then. We’ll see. Other grape growing areas in coastal valleys will also be affected:

Here’s the official record reports:

SXUS76 KMTR 270037 CCA




430 PM PST SAT FEB 26 2011


                          LOW            PREVIOUS    YEAR OF


NAPA                                     28             30          1945      CORRECTED

OAKLAND                            34             38          1987

OAKLAND INTL ARPT    32             34          1962

SFO INTL ARPT                 35             36          1971

SAN RAFAEL                     28             32          1996


                          LOW                        YEAR OF

SITE                      TEMPERATURE                PREVIOUS RECORD

SAN FRANCISCO                37                         1962

MOUNTAIN VIEW             34                         1962

SAN JOSE                              33                         1897

Here’s the forecast for Saint Helena in the center of the Napa Valley tonight, they call for 26 degrees.

Growing areas near Salinas will also get a frost.

63 thoughts on “Hard Freeze: California Wine Country

  1. Temperatures in the Sierra Madre region of Mexico (Madera) fell to -20C on the 3rd and 4th February, and -9C in Chihuahua, not rising above freezing during the day, for a week.
    The Warmists would naturally blame AGW.

  2. Grapes should be ok. They should still be dormant. Grapes in Europe endure temperatures well below freezing each year. We had vines back east and would get down to zero sometimes. The only time it would hurt the grapes is if they had already started to put out leaves.
    I think they are still dormant so they should be fine.
    REPLY: We have a lot of early blooms in the Sac Valley, due to unseasonably warm weather a couple weeks back. That’s the concern here -A

  3. Smokey says: February 26, 2011 at 7:04 pm
    “Yes, it’s finally happened.”
    Where on earth is The Hell??

  4. There was significant ice reported on the roads and bridges of the Napa Valley during the very cold days of Feb 15-16-17 earlier this month. Before that week’s cold weather, the power plant I was working down south of San Jose had significant ice damage to the turbine blades, so even the south San Fran Bay area has been hit this winter.
    The earlier ice may, or may not, mean the vines are additionally damaged by this regional snow, or may mean they were already cold-adapted and not too badly harmed.
    What will the Futures market purchases/sales on early Monday morning for Napa/Sonoma/Central Valley wines be?

  5. Looks like we’re in for a bumper crop of Eiswein!
    If it doesn’t pan out though, it’ll be fun to watch the California Wine Lobby start a campaign to maintain global warming…

  6. What you people do not seem to understand is that all your cold weather is due to human CO2 emissions causing dangerous climate disruption (formerly know as [fka] dangerous climate change fka climate change fka global warming).
    Say no more.
    /sarc off

  7. Smokey says: February 26, 2011 at 7:43 pm “tokyoboy”
    Thanks. As someone who once lived in West Berlin, I take the story (out of the two) that Hell originates in the expression “So schön hell!”
    Another story is a bit too truthful.

  8. Elizabeth, pets (and people) not adapted to cold can suffer in merely cool weather. Fortunately I don’t have that problem with the thermostat set to 55 or so.

  9. Hell is a small city in southern Michigan. Photos of their city sign in winter are fairly common. They were hit with a good ice storm earlier this week.

  10. “tokyoboy says: February 26, 2011 at 8:03 pm”
    Self-correction: “truthful” should read “ruthful”.
    Pushed two neigboring letters.

  11. DJ says:
    February 26, 2011 at 7:51 pm
    Looks like we’re in for a bumper crop of Eiswein!
    If it doesn’t pan out though, it’ll be fun to watch the California Wine Lobby start a campaign to maintain global warming…
    We’re on the wrong end of the growing season. Eiswein is made when mature grapes are frozen on the vine by a hard frost. The grapes are harvested and pressed while still frozen which produces a very concentrated must and a sweet but incredibly complex and intense wine. Haven’t had any for years, but the German vintages I had many years ago were beautiful wines.

  12. Boy! I’m impressed some readers actually knew where Hell, Michigan is. Living Hell, Michigan is a much larger town to the east. Just follow I-94 east to the ruins.
    I believe California’s wine region grows some of the more “sensitive” varieties. And, as Anthony mentioned early blooms before a frost can devastate any fruit crop anywhere. Western Michigan has extensive vineyards and a bunch of wineries but I don’t think the vines so much as expose a green shoot until about May (after the April blizzards).

  13. “can anyone tell me what was happening between 1950 – 1960?”
    Global energy deficit. Corresponds to peak of the baby boom. We were pretty tired.

  14. Dont’ have time to look it up, but these things seem to be oh, once every 10 or so years.
    They occur with regularity that was not predicted by AGW theory…

  15. Minnesota wine is a growing phenomenon. I suspect the Californians aren’t doing things the same way, though, different root stock, different hybrids, different winterizing, etc.

  16. I’ve forgotten – what year was the “Long Winter” that Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote about? Any correlations with other places in USA?

  17. tokyoboy says:
    February 26, 2011 at 8:26 pm
    “tokyoboy says: February 26, 2011 at 8:03 pm”
    Self-correction: “truthful” should read “ruthful”.
    Pushed two neigboring letters.

    And were the ell is the aitch in ‘neigboring’?

  18. I have an irregular column I write called The Oenologist’s Corner and in which I espouse the virtues of cheap assed wine (SEC!). A definition is in order: A cheap assed wine is red, under $10.00 USD, not from California, and cannot be an embarrassment to the host. So go ahead and freeze, CA – couldn’t happen to a more deserving bunch of greenies, and you were never in the race for excellence anyway.
    BTW, there are a good many CAW’s out there!

  19. Tokyoboy
    You ask ‘where on earth is hell’ Well, excluding a few places where nobody would ever want to revisit, the Hell I’ve been to is a small village near an airbase in Norway east of Tronheim. ( unfortunately, I cannot find my return ticket but I’ll keep looking and post a photo when it turns up)

  20. Regarding my comment:
    “Please have a look at the graph on page one on the link below –
    then, presuming this garph is bona fide, can anyone tell me what was happening between 1950 – 1960?
    the answers so far from http://www.hot-topic.co.nz
    1/ If readings were available for earlier periods it would show that the world was in a much better energy balance. It was only in about 1960 that the world began to recover form the second world war and started to burn coal and oil in serious quantities.
    2/ Tom, perhaps you asked the wrong question.
    The real question would have been: What happened between 1960 and 1975. And the answer is that during this time due to a large increase in industrial smog (SO2 had a lot to do with it) we actually industrially counteracted the AGW CO2 forcing effects. Then in the late 70ies clean air act laws came into place which bettered the situation in that sense and returned Earth to the state of imbalance it already had in the 60ies.
    In fact some of the geo-engineering ideas being circulated to fight GW are to simulate the smog of the 60ties by injecting stratospheric SO2 to counterbalance GW forcing.
    Does this make any more sense to you all than it does to me?

  21. More 2006 snow/hail time in SF.

    Clearly home videos make an excellent way to document weather events in some regards revealing quite a bit of info about the weather at the time. No temperature, pressure, or such readings interesting observational data. It would be really fantastic if each weather station also included a panoramic camera so that visual records would provide the missing information that temperature numbers alone can’t.
    This is the type of camera that the google uses on their street view cars. One of these babies at each weather stations would be awesome, 9 x 5 megapixels cameras (for 36 megapixels per frame total) with one pointing upwards to see the sky! Lots of data but at least you’d see the truck parked next to the temperature station and know that that time set of readings was, ah how to put this politely, bogus. Brem, brem.
    A couple of beautiful panoramas stitched together showing the sky 360 application. Imagine this is a weather station monitoring site: http://blog.elphel.com/2010/07/360-fisheye. Also imagine full second by second automated weather data collection from each station (in real time where possible) to a LIVE data collection PUBLIC web site along with multiple redundant LIVE data collection backup archive sites for keeping them honest about the data!

  22. Oops, that should say “No temperature, pressure, or such readings interesting [but] observational data [none-the-less].” [:)]

  23. One interesting piece of data that a panoramic + sky camera unit can provide is the position and location of the sun relative to the station’s camera and the cloud cover for that station (during the day). It would also show signs of visible air pollution which is cities would be important. As the technology advances night time cameras might be possible. Also using a weather radar unit at each would provide a lot more data for study.
    Going forward we need more context for the temperature observations to know what they are all about, video and weather radar can help a lot with that.
    What are all the parameters being captured by the most advanced weather stations today?
    As a professional systems analyst it is clear we need the best observational systems at each weather station so that all the scientific questions we are interested in asking can have half a chance of being addressed with some quantifiable accuracy and quantifiable confidence range.

  24. Rhyl Dearden said on February 26, 2011 at 10:32 pm:

    I’ve forgotten – what year was the “Long Winter” that Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote about? Any correlations with other places in USA?


    The Long Winter is a Newbery Honor novel by Laura Ingalls Wilder, first published in 1940. The story is set in South Dakota during the severe winter of 1880-1881, when Laura turned fourteen. It is the sixth book in the Little House series.

    This is interesting:

    The story begins in Dakota Territory at the Ingalls homestead in South Dakota on a hot August day in 1880 as Laura and her father (“Pa”) are haying. Pa tells Laura that he knows the winter is going to be hard because muskrats always build a house with thick walls before a hard winter, and this year, they have built the thickest walls he has ever seen. In mid-October, the Ingalls wake with an unusually early blizzard howling around their poorly insulated claim shanty. Soon afterward, Pa receives another warning from an unexpected source: a dignified old Native American man comes to the general store in town to warn the white settlers that there will be seven months of blizzards. Impressed, Pa decides to move the family into town for the winter.

    Check with muskrats at the end of summer to find out how bad winter will be. Check with groundhogs near the end of winter to find out how the rest of the season will NOT be. Got it.

  25. crosspatch says:
    February 26, 2011 at 7:46 pm
    California isn’t the only place. North Korea is also apparently seeing record cold:
    – – – – – – – – – –
    This makes me angry: “Pyongyang has reportedly stepped up its calls for aid from the international community….” Sigh. People are suffering. Whattaya gonna do?
    “Ryu Ki-yeol, the North Korean scientist cited by the Chosun Sinbo, cited a difference in pressure at the highest latitudes known as the Ar[c]tic Oscillation as the cause of the prolonged cold spell.”

  26. A suitable response to North Korea’s plea for food aid due to the extreme temperatures there and massive crop failures……
    “Let them eat nuclear weapons.”

  27. AJB says: Feb 26, 2011 at 7.54pm
    ‘Looking like the UK may have another cold blast’
    Reminds me of MET office long range forecast that there were ‘some indications of an increased risk of a mild end to the winter season.’ I wonder what piece of seaweed they were using to give an indication like that?

  28. Ice wine is made when grapes freeze in Autumn before getting picked. No wine is made when blooms from an early warm spell, fall off in a subsequent early freeze.
    Winter wheat in Pendleton is under the same warning. An earlier warm spell in the NE plains of Oregon wheat country caused red wheat planted in the fall to come up earlier than usual. But now those fairly tall green shoots are freezing their little blades off. Winter red wheat is the prized bread and cake flour that often is the source of flour prices increasing substantially following bad growing years.
    If you like to bake, buy up the big sacks of baking flour and store them in a cool, dry location with good air circulation.

  29. Rhyl Dearden [February 26, 2011 at 10:32 pm] says:
    “I’ve forgotten – what year was the “Long Winter” that Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote about? Any correlations with other places in USA?”

    That would be ‘1816 and froze to death‘ for $100 Alex.
    Lots of anecdotal corroboration from farmers in the Northeast USA to Mary Shelley in Switzerland writing her Frankenstein.
    Please also note that our last two summers: 2009 and 2010 were nothing to write home about. Just add in a Tambora scale eruption and we’d really be in deep {self-snip} cold. On the bright side, the AGW cult would be jumping out the windows of their Ivory Towers and landing on streets and automobiles, just like the polar bears they used in one of their sicko commercials.

  30. I should note that Arctic Oscillation does not make me angry – I apologize for changing directions without using a turn signal.

  31. I think some of you are getting the seasons mixed up. Icewine is not the result of freezing temps in the spring. Grapes destined for the production of Icewine are left on the vine way past normal picking time in the fall. They begin to shrivel. Then when the temp drops to -8C the remaining water in the grape freezes. Then the concentrated juice is extracted after crushing and used to produce the Icewine. But maybe if this global ‘cooling’ continues California will be picking Icewine grapes this year.

  32. If Napa Valley fails to produce good wine this year and North Korea starts a war to compensate for crop failures, then we can all blame it on LACK of global warming.

  33. From Pamela Gray on February 27, 2011 at 8:02 am:

    If you like to bake, buy up the big sacks of baking flour and store them in a cool, dry location with good air circulation.

    We were long ago invaded by tiny common household beetles that like flour and other dry products. I found a listing of the usual suspects:
    BUGS In Your Cupboards
    Some years back, some guy on the one blog was freaking out after finding the little crunchy specks in some plastic bags of pricey spices, moaning about tossing them out with a lot of other stuff and figuring out how to keep them out. I, along with others, consoled him to not worry about the added bits of protein, you likely won’t notice them in the finished product, you don’t notice them now (processed foods are allowed a certain tiny percentage of insect parts, the critters are very pervasive).
    Sealed containers are recommended for storing flour and similar, as they will easily penetrate the common paper flour bag. Our experience is they will chew into plastic bags, enter at tiny spaces along the lids of regular metal countertop containers, etc. Thus dry products from flour to instant potatoes to Bisquick get stored in the freezer on the door shelves (plastic, no ice buildup).
    For long-term storage of large amounts, I’d recommend transferring to sturdy plastic containers with tight lids. While they can be bought, our modern throw-away lifestyle provides plenty that are suitable, look for threaded lids. If you’re not squeamish, cat litter comes in jugs ideal for dry good storage, look for unscented as the perfumes may contaminate the plastic.

  34. kadaka,
    Good advice. For long term storage you can also buy some dry ice to put on top of the flour or grain before putting the cover on loosely. It doesn’t take much dry ice. Let the dry ice almost sublimate completely, then seal the lid. Nothing will oxidize, and any critters and eggs will suffocate.

  35. Mike McMillan says: February 26, 2011 at 10:06 pm @ tokyoboy
    “Where is that chart you put up a while back of Japan Tide gauges, kudasai?”
    You mean this one (released by our MET)? Sorry in Japanese, but the graphs/charts may be clear:
    The top chart is an average of 4 sites (1906-59) and 16 sites (1960-2010), which exhibit little ground deformation (so says MET).
    Our MET says “there’s no long-term trend. A 20-year oscillation is evident.”

  36. It’s been very hot over here in Perth, Australia.
    Long hot summer nights bring new record
    Perth has broken its record for the greatest number of consecutive warm nights.
    The minimum overnight temperature for the Perth metropolitan area has remained above 20 degrees for 14 consecutive nights, breaking the last record set in 1990.
    There have also been 21 consecutive days of temperatures over 30 degrees.
    Perth enduring second hottest summer on record
    Perth has been sweltering in its hottest summer in 33 years and second hottest summer in more than 110 years of records, according to weatherzone.com.au.
    “It’s virtually a certainty with the rest of the month staying well above 20 degrees at night and rising to the mid 30s every day,” weatherzone meteorologist Brett Dutschke said.
    The summer maximum will average at just under 32 degrees, about two degrees hotter than the long-term norm and the highest in 33 years.
    The summer average minimum will turn out to be 19 degrees, one and a half degrees warmer than the long-term norm and the highest in 19 years.
    Combining nighttime minimums and daytime maximums, the average temperature will come out at 25.4 degrees, the highest since the summer of 1977/1978 and second highest on record.

  37. There was no bud break in the central coast / Paso Robles region prior to the cold snap ( I have direct contacts in the business there that I checked with) so I would doubt that Napa / Sonoma had any bud break either – in which case the cold / snow would not have any effect of the grapes at this point.
    Now, that’s not to say we wont have other weather events that will effect this years crop before it is harvested….

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