A record cold snap hits Europe and France

“It is still difficult to assess [damage] caused by frost, but orchards (“stone fruits” such as plum, apricot, cherry) and vines were impacted”, Jean-Marc Touzard, research director at the National Research Institute for agriculture, food and the environment (INRAE), mentioned in an email.

Climatologists fear that warming temperatures in late winter and early spring will increase the frequency of “false springs”, which spur early greening of vegetation before the threat of freezing temperatures has passed, which can wipe out vulnerable young plants.

Météo-France, the country’s meteorological agency, tweeted that France experienced its coldest April morning on record on Monday (dating back to 1947), with national minimum temperatures of 29.3 degrees (minus-1.5 Celsius). In the mountains it was as cold as minus-6.7 degrees (minus-21.5 Celsius)an April record.

Guillaume Séchet, French meteorologist, tweeted that April 1-3 were the coldest first three days of April in the country since at least 1930.

Maximiliano Herrera, a climatologist who tracks international weather extremes, tweeted that freezing temperatures and record cold were also seen in Germany, Spain and Austria.

Weather maps showed a wide region of abnormally cold conditions from Portugal to western Russia. The largest temperature departures from normal were concentrated between Spain and Germany, with France being the hardest hit.

Warm winter conditions likely made crops more susceptible to frost. In Germany, the winter was warmer than normal and recorded nearly 20 more frost-free days than an average year. According to the monthly crop monitoring of the European Commission newsletter“Frost tolerance is rather low, which makes crops sensitive to freezing temperatures” in Germany.

In France, winter was about 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit (1 degree Celsius) above normal from February to mid-March.

Serge Zaka, a climate and agriculture expert in France, said in a Twitter thread that the recent freezing weather is very damaging.

A second consecutive false spring in Europe

This is the second year in a row that a severe cold spell has set in after an unusually early spring bloom. Last year, parts of Europe experienced their hottest March on record before record cold hit in early April. Switzerland and Slovenia recorded record low temperatures in April. Numerous sites in France and Italy experienced their coldest April on record.

The April 2021 cold spell was devastating for French winemakers, resulting in $2.4 billion in damage, according to the Associated Press. Some vineyards have lost 80% of their grapes.

However, the effects of the current cold snap in France could be less severe than in 2021 due to timing and coverage, Touzard said. This year, the cold spell came a few days earlier and the growth of vegetation, especially for the vines, was less advanced. Many buds are still not open. The cold wave also seems less widespread, concentrated mainly in the southwestern regions.

He also said grape growers had learned from last year’s devastating frost. Now they have better monitoring of the frostiest plots, and they pruned their vines later and put more protection in place. Some French winemakers light large candles or use sprinklers to thaw the vines.

“Fruit growers and grape growers are…afraid of this kind of damage. It’s starting to be fairly regular,” notes Guillaume Charrier, also a researcher at INRAE. “It was about four times, maybe in the last five years or so” near the Rhône in eastern France and near Bourdeaux.

“It’s part of normal agricultural life to have frost events, but we also have the abnormally warmer winter temperature which increases plant vulnerability,” Charrier said.

False springs caused agricultural damage not only in Europe in recent years, but also in several regions of the United States.

“If those flower buds are affected by frost, they don’t regenerate that spring, and they don’t regenerate throughout the year,” said Theresa Crimmins, director of the USA National Phenology Network and research professor at the University of Arizona. told the Washington Post in December. “There have been some really devastating impacts in recent years where we have had early heat, followed by frosts and then total crop loss.”

A study 2019 of how spring frost damage to trees may change in Europe as the climate warms, found that some sensitive species will “paradoxically experience more frost damage in future global warming”.

Cold in Europe, but exceptionally warm around

The record cold in Europe does not refute the planet long-term warming trend. While it was freezing in Europe, abnormally mild air blanketed much of Asia and large parts of the North Atlantic.

Herrera tweeted that an “extraordinary heat wave is breaking out in Central Asia”. In Turkmenistan, it was 101.7 degrees (38.7 Celsius) on Monday.

Some research also shows that climate change can intensify cold snaps at certain times and places due to more erratic jet stream behavior, even though winters are warmer overall, although the notion is debated in the literature. scientific community.

Unseasonably cold weather and the threat of frost will continue until midweek in southern France before temperatures moderate.