Arctic Air Returns to Great Lakes Vineyards
Still reeling from damage from last winter, Great Lakes vinifera growers are again facing vine damaging temperatures.
Lake Erie is now over 93% frozen. Without a warming “lake effect,” temperatures in Ashtabula County reportedly dropped to close to -20F last night. This is not good news for the few old world grape vines that survived in Northeast Ohio last winter or any new ones that were planted this year.
The other Great Lakes have some open water which is helping to moderate temperatures. Northern Lake Michigan is rapidly icing over, but southern Lake Superior is still mainly ice free as of February 15th.
Traverse City is expected to have three consecutive nights of sub-zero temps- Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday- with the coldest readings around -9F. Damage to vinifera grapes vines depends on many factors, but -10F is generally considered a death knell for exposed buds.
On the southern end of Lake Michigan, the chilly Lake is mostly open water, which has spawned lake effect snow squalls and slightly warmer temperatures. Benton Harbor, MI, in the heart of Lake Michigan Shore wine country, is expected to drop only slightly below zero.
Away from the Great Lakes, temperatures along the 45th parallel could go as low as -15F. This is not ideal weather for overwintering cold hardy grapes, but most northern hybrids should be able to handle it.
With these bizarre weather patterns, it’s hard to predict when Midwest grape and fruit growers will be out of the woods. Remembering last year, the coldest weather did not occur until the end of February and the beginning of March.