Shifts in the thermal niche of almond under climate change


Delineating geographic shifts in crop cultivation under future climate conditions provides information for land use and water management planning, and insights to meeting future demand. A suitability modeling approach was used to map the thermal niche of almond cultivation and phenological development across the Western United States (US) through the mid-21st century. The Central Valley of California remains thermally suitable for almond cultivation through the mid-21st century, and opportunities for expansion appear in the Willamette Valley of western Oregon, which is currently limited by insufficient heat accumulation. Modeled almond phenology shows a compression in reproductive development under future climate. By the mid-21st century, almond phenology in the Central Valley showed ~ 2-week delay in chill accumulation and ~ 1- and ~ 2.5-week advance in the timing of bloom and harvest, respectively. Although other climatic and non-climatic restrictions to almond cultivation may exist, these results highlight opportunities for shifts in the geography of high-value cropping systems, which may influence growers’ long-term land use decisions, and shape regional water and agricultural industry discussions regarding climate change adaptation options.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5


  1. Abatzoglou JT (2013) Development of gridded surface meteorological data for ecological applications and modelling. Int J Climatol 33(1):121–131

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Abatzoglou JT, Brown TJ (2012) A comparison of statistical downscaling methods suited for wildfire applications. Int J Climatol 32:772–780

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Allstadt AJ, Vavrus SJ, Heglund PJ, Pidgeon AM, Thogmartin WE, Radeloff VC (2015) Spring plant phenology and false springs in the conterminous US during the 21st century. Environ Res Lett 10(10):104008

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Averyt K, Meldrum J, Caldwell P, Sun G, McNulty S, Huber-Lee A, Madden N (2013) Sectoral contributions to surface water stress in the coterminous United States. Environ Res Lett 8:035046

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) (2015) California Agricultural Statistics Review 2015 Report [Online]. Retrieved from Accessed 10 March 2017

  6. California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) (2016) 2015 California Almond Acreage Report. Retrieved from Accessed 24 Nov 2017

  7. Chmielewski FM, Müller A, Bruns E (2004) Climate changes and trends in phenology of fruit trees and field crops in Germany, 1961–2000. Agric For Meteorol 121(1):69–78

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Chuine I, Bonhomme M, Legave JM, García de Cortázar-Atauri I, Charrier G, Lacointe A, Améglio T (2016) Can phenological models predict tree phenology accurately in the future? The unrevealed hurdle of endodormancy break. Glob Chang Biol 22(10):3444–3460

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Connell JH, Gradziel TM, Lampinen BD, Micke WC, Floyd J (2010) Harvest maturity of almond cultivars in California’s Sacramento Valley. Options Méditerranéennes, Serie A, Seminaires Méditerranéennes 94:19–23

    Google Scholar 

  10. Covert MM (2011) The influence of chilling and heat accumulation on bloom timing, bloom length, and crop yield. Masters thesis, California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. 10.15368/theses.2011.222

  11. Dalton MM, Mote PW, Snover AK (eds) (2013) Climate change in the northwest: implications for our landscapes, waters, and communities. Island, Washington, DC

    Google Scholar 

  12. Darbyshire R, Barlow EWR, Webb L, Goodwin I (2016) Roadblocks to assessing climate impacts on temperate perennial fruit. Acta Hortic 1130:11–18

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Doll D (2013) Winter chill reduction from climate change. Accessed 10 March 2017

  14. Estes LD, Bradley BA, Beukes H, Hole DG, Lau M, Oppenheimer MG, Schulze R, Tadross MA, Turner WR (2013) Comparing mechanistic and empirical model projections of crop suitability and productivity: implications for ecological forecasting. Glob Ecol Biogeogr 22:1007–1018

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Griffin D, Anchukaitis KJ (2014) How unusual is the 2012–2014 California drought? Geophys Res Lett 41(24):9017–9023

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Guisan A, Zimmermann NE (2000) Predictive habitat distribution models in ecology. Ecol Model 135:147–186

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Houston L, Capalbo S, Seavert C, Dalton M, Bryla D, Sagili R (2017) Specialty fruit production in the Pacific Northwest: adaptation strategies for a changing climate. Clim Chang.

  18. Kelly AE, Goulden ML (2008) Rapid shifts in plant distribution with recent climate change. Proc Natl Acad Sci 105(33):11823–11826

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Kerr A, Dialesandro J, Steenwerth K, Lopez-Brody N, Elias E (2017) Vulnerability of California specialty crops to projected mid-century temperature changes. Clim Chang :1–18.

  20. Leemans R, Solomon AM (1993) Modeling the potential change in yield and distribution of the earth’s crops under a warmed climate (no. PB-94-157369/XAB; EPA--600/J-94/158). Environmental Protection Agency, Corvallis

    Google Scholar 

  21. Li H, Sheffield J, Wood EF (2010) Bias correction of monthly precipitation and temperature fields from Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change AR4 models using equidistant quantile matching. J Geophys Res Atmos 115(D10)

  22. Lobell DB, Field CB (2011) California perennial crops in a changing climate. Clim Chang 109:317–333

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. Lobell DB, Gourdji SM (2012) The influence of climate change on global crop productivity. Plant Physiol 160(4):1686–1697

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. Lobell DB, Field CB, Cahill KN, Bonfils C (2006) Impacts of future climate change on California perennial crop yields: model projections with climate and crop uncertainties. Agric For Meteorol 141(2):208–218

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. Lopez G, Johnson R, DeJong T (2007) High spring temperatures decrease peach fruit size. Calif Agric 61(1):31–34

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. Luedeling E, Brown PH (2011) A global analysis of the comparability of winter chill models for fruit and nut trees. Int J Biometeorol 55:411–421

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. Luedeling E, Zhang M, Girvetz EH (2009) Climatic changes lead to declining winter chill for fruit and nut trees in California during 1950–2099. PLoS One 4(7):e6166

    Article  Google Scholar 

  28. Luedeling E, Girvetz EH, Semenov MA, Brown PH (2011a) Climate change affects winter chill for temperate fruit and nut trees. PLoS One 6(5):e20155

    Article  Google Scholar 

  29. Luedeling E, Steinmann KP, Zhang M, Brown PH, Grant J, Girvetz EH (2011b) Climate change effects on walnut pests in California. Glob Chang Biol 17(1):228–238

    Article  Google Scholar 

  30. Machovina B, Feeley KJ (2013) Climate change driven shifts in the extent and location of areas suitable for export banana production. Ecol Econ 95:83–95

    Article  Google Scholar 

  31. Marlier ME, Xiao M, Engel R, Livneh B, Abatzoglou JT, Lettenmaier DP (2017) The 2015 drought in Washington State: a harbinger of things to come?. Environ Res Lett 12(11):114008

  32. Memmott J, Craze PG, Waser NM, Price MV (2007) Global warming and the disruption of plant–pollinator interactions. Ecol Lett 10(8):710–717

    Article  Google Scholar 

  33. Miranda C, Santesteban LG, Royo JB (2005) Variability in the relationship between frost temperature and injury level for some cultivated Prunus species. HortSci 40(2):357–361

  34. Moriondo M, Jones GV, Bois B, Dibari C, Ferrise R, Trombi G, Bindi M (2013) Projected shifts of wine regions in response to climate change. Clim Chang 119(3–4):825–839

    Article  Google Scholar 

  35. Mosedale JR, Wilson RJ, Maclean IM (2015) Climate change and crop exposure to adverse weather: changes to frost risk and grapevine flowering conditions. PloS One 10(10):e0141218

  36. Mote P, Snover AK, Capalbo S, Eigenbrode SD, Glick P, Littell J, Raymondi R, Reeder S (2014) Ch. 21: Northwest. Climate change impacts in the United States: the third national climate assessment. In: JM Melillo, Richmond T (TC) , Yohe GW (eds) US Global Change Research Program, pp 487–513

  37. Parker LE, Abatzoglou JT (2016) Projected changes in cold hardiness zones and suitable overwinter ranges of perennial crops over the United States. Environ Res Lett 11(3):034001

    Article  Google Scholar 

  38. Parker LE, Abatzoglou JT (2017) Comparing mechanistic and empirical approaches to modeling the thermal niche of almond. Int J Biometeorol 61(9):1593–1606

  39. Peters GP, Andrew RM, Boden T, Canadell JG, Ciais P, Le Quéré C, Wilson C (2013) The challenge to keep global warming below 2°C. Nat Clim Chang 3:4–6

    Article  Google Scholar 

  40. Pimentel D, Acquay H, Biltonen M, Rice P, Silva M, Nelson J, Lipner V, Giordano S, Horowitz A, D’Amore M (1992) Environmental and economic costs of pesticide use. Bioscience 42(10):750–760

    Article  Google Scholar 

  41. Pope KS, Da Silva D, Brown PH, Dejong TM (2014) A biologically based approach to modeling spring phenology in temperate deciduous trees. Agric For Meteorol 198:15–23

    Article  Google Scholar 

  42. Pope KS, Dose V, Da Silva D, Brown PH, DeJong TM (2015) Nut crop yield records show that budbreak-based chilling requirements may not reflect yield decline chill thresholds. Int J Biometeorol 59(6):707–715

    Article  Google Scholar 

  43. Seager R, Ting M, Li C, Naik N, Cook B, Nakamura J, Liu H (2013) Projections of declining surface-water availability for the southwestern United States. Nat Clim Chang 3(5):482–486

    Article  Google Scholar 

  44. Smith S (2014) California almond farmers face tough choices in face of drought. Los Angeles Daily News. Accessed 20 December 2016

  45. Sykes MT, Prentice IC, Cramer W (1996) A bioclimatic model for the potential distributions of north European tree species under present and future climates. J Biogeogr:203–233

  46. US Department of Agriculture National Agricultural Statistics Service (USDA-NASS) (2016) 2016 State Agricultural Overview for California, Washington, Oregon, and Idaho. Accessed 31 Aug 2017

  47. Webb LB, Whetton PH, Barlow EW (2007) Modelled impact of future climate change on the phenology of winegrapes in Australia. Aust J Grape Wine Res 13(3):165–175

    Article  Google Scholar 

  48. Weiser M (2015) Lucrative but thirsty almonds come under fire amid drought. National Geographic. Accessed 21 December 2016

  49. White MA, Diffenbaugh NS, Jones GV, Pal JS, Giorgi F (2006) Extreme heat reduces and shifts United States premium wine production in the 21st century. Proc Natl Acad Sci 103(30):11217–11222

    Article  Google Scholar 

  50. Xu W, Lowe SE, Adams RM (2014) Climate change, water rights, and water supply: The case of irrigated agriculture in Idaho. Water Resour Res 50(12):9675–9695

  51. Yao S, Merwin IA, Bird GW, Abawi GS, Thies JE (2005) Orchard floor management practices that maintain vegetative or biomass groundcover stimulate soil microbial activity and alter soil microbial community composition. Plant Soil 271:377–389

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references


This research was supported by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture competitive grant, award number 2011-68002-30191. Additional funding was provided by the United States Department of Agriculture Northwest Climate Hub.

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to Lauren E. Parker.

Electronic supplementary material


(DOCX 60 kb)

Supplementary Figure 1

(PNG 164 kb)

Supplementary Figure 2

(PNG 592 kb)

Supplementary Figure 3

(PNG 2452 kb)

Supplementary Figure 4

(PNG 6299 kb)

Supplementary Figure 5

(PNG 6776 kb)

Supplementary Figure 6

(PNG 7763 kb)

Supplementary Figure 7

(PNG 465 kb)

Supplementary Figure 8

(PNG 361 kb)

Supplementary Figure 9

(PNG 5245 kb)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Parker, L.E., Abatzoglou, J.T. Shifts in the thermal niche of almond under climate change. Climatic Change 147, 211–224 (2018).

Download citation