Frost risk projections in a changing climate are highly sensitive in time and space to frost modelling approaches

Late spring frost is a major challenge for various winegrowing regions across the world, its occurrence often leading to important yield losses and/or plant failure. Despite a significant increase in minimum temperatures worldwide, the spatial and temporal evolution of spring frost risk under a warmer climate remains largely uncertain. Recent projections of spring frost risk for viticulture in Europe throughout the 21st century show that its evolution strongly depends on the model approach used to simulate budburst. Furthermore, the frost damage modelling methods used in these projections are usually not assessed through comparison to field observations and/or frost damage reports. 
The present study aims at comparing frost risk projections simulated using six spring frost models based on two approaches: a) models considering a fixed damage threshold after the predicted budburst date (e.g BRIN, Smoothed-Utah, Growing Degree Days, Fenovitis) and b) models considering a dynamic frost sensitivity threshold based on the predicted grapevine winter/spring dehardening process (e.g. Ferguson model). The capability of each model to simulate an actual frost event for the Vitis vinifera cv. Chadonnay B was previously assessed by comparing simulated cold thermal stress to reports of events with frost damage in Chablis, the northernmost winegrowing region of Burgundy. Models exhibited scores of κ > 0.65 when reproducing the frost/non-frost damage years and an accuracy ranging from 0.82 to 0.90. 
Spring frost risk projections throughout the 21st century were performed for all winegrowing subregions of Bourgogne-Franche-Comté under two CMIP5 concentration pathways (4.5 and 8.5) using statistically downscaled 8×8 km daily air temperature and humidity of 13 climate models. Contrasting results with region-specific spring frost risk trends were observed. Three out of five models show a decrease in the frequency of frost years across the whole study area while the other two show an increase that is more or less pronounced depending on winegrowing subregion. Our findings indicate that the lack of accuracy in grapevine budburst and dehardening models makes climate projections of spring frost risk highly uncertain for grapevine cultivation regions. 

Authors: Catinca Gavrilescu1, Sebastien Zito1, Yves Richard1, Thierry Castel1, Guillaume Morvan2 and Benjamin Bois1,3 

1Centre de Recherches de Climatologie – UMR Biogeosciences, Université Bourgogne Franche-Comté / CNRS, Dijon, France 
2Chambre d’Agriculture de l’Yonne, Auxerre, France 
3Institut Universitaire de la Vigne et du Vin, Université Bourgogne Franche-Comté, Dijon, France 


Keywords: frost risk, viticulture, thermal stress, climate change, extreme weather

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