Pumpkins and chocolate are Halloween staples, but like most things, they are likely to be affected by climate change. With trick-or-treaters getting ready to make the rounds, we thought it would be a good time to look at some of the impacts.
Cocoa powder is the main ingredient in chocolate, which comes from cocoa beans grown in the tropics. Dry weather can stunt cocoa bean growth. With temperatures rising and rainfall patterns expected to change by mid-century, there could be less land suitable for cocoa production. That would translate to diminished chocolate supplies worldwide according to a 2011 study released by the International Center for Tropical Agricultural.
Pumpkins are also prone to weather and climate. Heavy rain in 2009 delayed the harvest and caused pumpkins to rot in the fields across Illinois, the state where nearly 90 percent of the U.S. pumpkins come from. This year is a different story. A wet spring and dry late summer are combining for a good pumpkin crop there, while New Jersey and Delaware are seeing a diminished yield because of a very wet summer.
Over the last century, rainfall has increased across the Midwest by an average of 9 percent. Since 1958, heavy rainfall events in the region have also increased by 45 percent, which can saturate pumpkin patches. Both those trends are expected to continue according to the National Climate Assessment. So while natural weather variability plays a big role in yearly pumpkin crop yield, these rainfall shifts could have longer-term impacts. However, more research needs to be done on what those specific impacts will look like.