Meteorological conditions are important environmental factors affecting apple quality. To understand the possible impact of climate change on the apple quality of the major producing areas in China and assess the quality of major apple species (e.g., Fuji, Ralls, and Golden Delicious), we studied the variation trends and abrupt change characteristics of six major climate factors affecting seven physicochemical indices of apple quality across five apple regions, including the Loess Plateau, Bohai Bay, the Old Course of the Yellow River, Southwest Highlands, and Xinjiang, using statistical methods, meteorological indices, and the ArcGIS analysis tool based on the meteorological observational data from 1961 to 2013. The results show that the spatial and temporal distributions of annual average temperature, annual sunshine duration, average summer temperature, summer diurnal temperature range, and average summer relative humidity all significantly changed (except annual precipitation) and that abrupt changes occurred. The annual temperatures and average summer temperatures in the Loess Plateau apple region and the Liaoning producing region of Bohai Bay increased within optimal ranges. In addition, for high-value regions, the hours of sunshine decreased, helping to improve the fruit shape index, sugar-acid ratio, and vitamin C (VC) content. Relatively high temperatures continued to increase to high values which remained lower than the optimal upper limit; the diurnal temperature range continued to decrease; and the sunshine hours significantly decreased within the optimal range, which might have worsened fruit hardness, soluble sugar, and peel anthocyanin in the producing regions of Southwest Shandong of Bohai Bay, Southeast Hebei of the Old Course of the Yellow River, Northern Anhui, and Jiangsu. In the production regions of the Yun-Gui plateau in the Southwest highlands, increased summer temperature and the diurnal temperature range were both within the optimal ranges, which might have helped to reduce fruit hardness and increase soluble sugar content. However, continuously increased temperature and reduced sunshine might have worsened the apple shape index and fruit coloring. In the Xinjiang apple-producing region, the climate became warmer and more humid with reduced daily sunshine hours, which might have improved the exterior quality of apples and reduced fruit hardness. Thus, the climate changes over the last 50 years have positively affected the seven apple quality physicochemical properties in the Loess Plateau and Xinjiang, whereas the impacts on the different indices of apple quality in the other apple-producing regions are less coherent. In general, climate change has significantly affected the apple quality of the major production regions in China. Corresponding scientific measures are needed to assure high apple quality to increase the income of farmers in the future.
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