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Record-setting cold snap hits Europe, stunning spring crops

  A historically intense April cold snap has descended on Europe, with temperatures plummeting to 20 to 30 degrees (11 to 18 degrees Celsius...


A historically intense April cold snap has descended on Europe, with temperatures plummeting to 20 to 30 degrees (11 to 18 degrees Celsius) below normal. The record-breaking cold has triggered harsh frosts, shocking early-blooming plants and crops in several countries.

The unseasonably cold weather, which arrived over the weekend, follows warmer-than-normal temperatures in previous weeks that caused a rapid greening of flora — particularly in France's agricultural regions.

"It's still difficult to evaluate the [damage] caused by the frost, but orchards ('stone fruits' such as plum trees, apricot, cherry) and vineyards have been impacted," Jean-Marc Touzard, director of research at the French National Research Institute for Agriculture, Food and Environment (INRAE), said in an email.

Climate scientists are concerned that warming late-winter and early-spring temperatures are increasing the frequency of "false springs," which spur earlier vegetation green-up before the threat has passed of frigid temperatures that can wipe out young, vulnerable plants.

Météo-France, the country's weather forecasting agency, tweeted that France had its coldest April morning on record Monday (dating 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, a French meteorologist, tweeted that April 1 to 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 also were observed in Germany, Spain and Austria.

Weather maps showed a sprawling region of unseasonably cold conditions from Portugal to western Russia. The biggest temperature differences from normal were centered between Spain and Germany, with France hit hardest.

Warm winter conditions probably made crops more vulnerable to frost. In Germany, winter was warmer than normal and recorded nearly 20 more frost-free days than in an average year. According to the European Commission's monthly crop monitoring bulletin, "Frost tolerance is rather weak, making crops susceptible to freezing temperatures" in Germany.

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

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

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