What won’t climate change affect? Well, cross trail mix and cherry pie off that ever-shrinking list. It turns out that crisp apples, chewy almonds, ripe plums and a host of other nuts and stone fruits might become much more costly to grow — or not grown at all in some spots — because of rising winter temperatures, according to a new study published in the peer-reviewed journal PLoS One.
The problem, say researchers: The trees that produce these goodies need a certain number of hours at cold temperatures — or “winter chill” — in order to blossom and produce maximally. And the author’s extensive climate change modeling shows achieving adequate winter chill will become increasingly more difficult in growing zones across the world, from South Africa to southern Australia to California’s Central Valley. (The U.S. fruit and nut industry generates about $93 billion in income annually.)
That could mean lower crop yields unless growers either take either costly measures to adapt to warmer winters or move their stocks northward — a forced migration that might not work in many cases, according to Nature Conservancy climate scientist Evan Girvetz, a co-author on the study. I asked Girvetz to serve up the nutty details (look out, pistachio lovers!) and to talk about how he as a climate scientists deals with depressing studies like this coming out nearly every week.