April 11, 2024

More Typical Spring Temperatures Will Save Washington and California's Cherry Crop this Year

Last year was a cherry disaster for the West Coast and the key driver was the cool/wet weather late last winter and spring in California.  

This resulted in a very bountiful but late California cherry crop that became available at the same time as the larger Northwest cherry harvest, which was early because of a few warm weeks in May.

With too many cherries available simultaneously, cherry prices plummeted and several Northwest orchards left their cherries on the trees.

Cherry armageddon!

But this year should be much better for cherry growers and lovers of the red fruit such as myself.  

Why?  Because California is warmer this year and the Northwest should be cooler in May.   

A bountiful and extended cherry season is promised.  Let me show you why.

The figure below shows the average temperature for February 1 through April 10 at Modesto, CA (in California's Central Valley) from 1950 through 2024.

2023 was way below normal, while this year is near normal.    Thus, the California cherry crop will be earlier this year because of the warmth, and with plenty of rain, there should be a bountiful harvest.  

Typically, the California cherry season runs from mid-May to early June, providing lots of cherries for the Memorial Day holiday weekend.   Expect the same this year.

So what about Washington State?    With El Nino rapidly weakening, there is no reason to expect a major warm period (above normal) in May.   

But what about what has happened in Washington state during the past months?  Below are the average temperatures for Feb. 1 through April 10th for Wenatchee, WA for 1950 through 2024.  

This year's temperatures are slightly above normal and last year was slightly below normal.

At this point, there is no expectation of a May heatwave like last year.  In fact, the latest 46-day forecast from the most skillful system (European Center) suggests cooler-than-normal conditions through the end of May (see forecast below).  That could extend the cherry season into August.

Although my professional expertise is in the area of weather prediction, I will go out on a limb and suggest a bountiful cherry harvest in both California and the Pacific Northwest, and that we will have an extended period of sweet cherries in our food stores.

I can't wait.😁


  1. More spring-like weather saves the cherry crop--- just before the violent late-spring cold and hail storms. Ha!

  2. Cliff, I have an orchardist next to me and he is still worried how much damage the cold snap in winter caused his crop. We had temps pretty warm through out winter then dipped drastically to 10 below 0. He doesn't know if or how much damage it caused, but is a concern to him. The other factor is rains. If rain sits on cherries it will split them. We have helicopter crews on standby during ripening and they go out after rains to hover over orchards and dry off fruits. These soft fruits are so fragile it is hard and why they more pricey most of time as entire regions could lose crops to one bad frost (wind machines been keeping me up). I wouldn't wager on bumper crops, but definitely can hope for them and proper timing of them so all can collect from their hard labor!

    1. There was that cold period in January which appears to have damaged the cherry crop in BC. The temperatures extremes were great but not as bad around Yakima and the Tri-Cities, so hoping the damage was substantially less.

    2. I am in Okanogan, WA. Got dang cold in our valley. Like said -10°f and this orchardist said in spots his orchards got to -12°f, and we have one of the biggest producers in the state. Gebbers farms. Here is to hoping. I love cherries, but I do not count my chickens due to fragile nature of the crop.

  3. Dr. Mass, if your prediction of a bountiful cherry harvest turns out to be wrong because of some unforeseen weather event, someone will accuse you of cherry-picking the data to reach your conclusion.

    That said, I have to say that I think Costco has the best cherry pies bar none. At my age, I can handle only three a year without getting fat.

  4. You must be a fan of Twin Peaks...Hot, black coffee and cherry pie!

  5. My personal cherry crop is heavily dependent on availability of pollinators. Last year, the bloom coincided with cold weather, so the bees were not out and about. My tree is almost in full bloom, so I'm hoping it will be warm enough for the bees to do their work.

  6. This summer is looking hot according to the latest cpc seasonal outlook for much of the west, well see.

  7. Here is an off-topic question for Cliif Mass. Joe Bastardi at Weatherbell is predicting an exceptionally active hurricane season for 2024 with large areas of the east and gulf coasts at very high risk for serious damage. Dr. Mass, what do you think about Joe Bastardi's predictions for the upcoming 2024 hurricane season? Are the worries he expresses justified?

    1. Eric Berger and his colleagues at Space City Weather in Houston made a similar prediction in a March 20th blog post. Some key points from the post:

      > El Niño continues to slowly erode away in the Equatorial Pacific.
      > La Niña development continues to look plausible, if not likely by August or September, a feather in the cap of an active hurricane season forecast.
      > Atlantic Ocean sea-surface temperatures remain excessively warm virtually everywhere that matters.
      > We are likely to see some very active hurricane season forecasts get released in the coming weeks.

      Source: https://spacecityweather.com/storms-possible-on-thursday-and-we-take-a-look-at-the-2024-atlantic-hurricane-season-forecast/

    2. Colorado State University also has a publication with similar predictions: https://tropical.colostate.edu/Forecast/2024-04.pdf (Sorry for the spam)

  8. From your lips to God's ears, Cliff. I eat so many cherries at peak of harvest that I have to carry Imodium.


Please make sure your comments are civil. Name calling and personal attacks are not appropriate.

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