A research team from the University of Tasmania (UTAS) is using climate science to provide the Australian grape and wine community with information on dealing with climate change.
The team has provided tools and practical management options to help the industry face the challenges of short-term climate cycles and long-term climate change.
Led by Dr Rebecca Harris, the project employs a multi-disciplinary approach to integrate climate science, species distribution modelling and viticultural expertise.
Dr Tom Remenyi, a member of the UTAS project, said inter-annual climate variability has always posed a challenge to the wine sector.
“Spring frost, heatwaves at flowering or just prior to harvest and bushfires can inflict large financial losses,” he said.
The incidence of such events was projected to increase with ongoing climate change, said Remenyi.
Discussions with grapegrowers and winemakers had highlighted the need for fine-scale regional projections across Australia and forecasts of inter-annual and decadal climate variability driven by the El Niño-Southern Oscillation and Pacific Decadal Oscillation.
The team hopes to identify how the weather risks for all wine regions may change into the future across a range of time-scales.
The sector is already highly adaptive and innovative, driven largely by an existing climate that is highly variable, said Remenyi.
These tools aim to help grapegrowers and winemakers choose adaptive strategies with the best long-term returns, he said.
The UTAS project aims to provide both short-term predictions and long-term projections of climate across Australia, with a focus on regional climate indices tailored for the grape and wine community.
The goal includes identifying weather risks, particularly important to grapegrowing within different wine regions.
The project also aims to develop region-specific indices of ‘heatwave’ and variety-specific indices of heat accumulation.
The team has also produced a tool that allows the rapid comparison of any region now, with any other region globally into the future.
This allows users to identify what the vineyard conditions are going to be similar to into the future.
Remenyi said improved knowledge of conditions expected over the next decades could help growers and winemakers position themselves to take advantage of new opportunities and markets.