Climate change increases the likelihood of late frosts and crop failures

17. Juni 2021
International scientists from the World Weather Attribution Network, including Prof. Markus Reichstein, Director at the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry in Jena, have analysed the possible connection between unexpected frosts in Europe and global climate change. They examined the late frosts of early April this year, which followed a period of very mild weather and caused damage in France's vineyards and fruit and vegetable fields. The mild March had favoured the early budding of the plants and so the frost damage was particularly dramatic. The researchers warn that climate change will significantly increase the likelihood of unexpected or even extreme weather conditions, which can also follow one another.

Global warming is causing the average temperature on our planet to rise, but its effects can vary greatly from region to region. Even if the late frosts may become fewer and more moderate overall, early warm periods ensure that the plants sprout early. The tender shoots are particularly at risk when the temperature suddenly drops below freezing. In Western Europe, this was the case between 6 and 8 April 2021 and led to major damage in the wine-growing regions of Champagne, the Loire Valley and Burgundy, especially in central and northern France.

The scientists of the network specifically investigated this frost event under the aspect of climate change. After analysing temperature data and climate simulations, they concluded that climate change has made late frosts in spring 2021 20% to 120% more likely.

"For wine growers and farmers, late frosts can be an existential threat, because the resulting crop losses jeopardise the income of an entire year," sums up Prof. Markus Reichstein. Together with his international colleagues, he wants to continue to analyse extreme weather events in a timely and robust manner and make the assessments accessible to a broad public and decision-makers.

Prof. Dr. Markus Reichstein
Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry
Hans-Knöll-Str. 10
07745 Jena, Germany
+49 3641 576-200
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