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Record-breaking cold hits Europe, causing widespread damage to agriculture

Anti frost measures France April 2022

Unseasonably cold weather hit parts of Europe over the past weekend, following warmer-than-normal temperatures in previous weeks that caused rapid greening of flora. Damage to agriculture is widespread but it seems it’s not as bad as it was last year when a similar cold episode happened. The worst affected countries were France, Germany, Spain and Austria.

According to Jason Samenow and Kasha Patel of The Washingon’s Post Capital Weather Gang, temperatures plummeted 11 – 18 °C (20 – 30 °F) below normal, triggering harsh frosts and shocking early-blooming plants and crops in several countries.1

“It’s still difficult to evaluate the damage caused by the frost, but orchards and vineyards have been impacted,” Jean-Marc Touzard, director of research at the French National Research Institute for Agriculture, Food and Environment (INRAE), said.

The national minimum temperatures dropped to -1.5 °C (29.3 °F) overnight Sunday and early Monday, April 4, 2022, marking the country’s coldest morning since 1947, according to data provided by Meteo France.

While Mourmelon in the Marne department east of Paris saw record temperatures of -9.3 °C (15.2 °F), French mountainous regions recorded -21.5 °C (-6.7 °F), setting a new April record.

For France, April 1 -3 were the coldest first three days of April since at least 1930, according to French meteorologist Guillaume Séchet.

Growers across the affected regions burned candles, sprayed water and used wind turbines in efforts to protect their crops from freezing temperatures, AFP reported.2

“Frost is a normal thing in early April. What’s less normal is for the plant to already be developed at that point,” winemaker Thomas Ventoursa said.

“Since 2016, we have had three big frost episodes and it’s true that it makes you seriously wonder about the future of our trade in this period,” Ventoursa added. “Everyone is tense because after the very poor harvest of 2021, we were at least expecting something normal.”

“It’s very bad. It hit hard overnight. A lot of fruit growers are affected,” Christiane Lambert, president of the FNSEA farmers’ union, told AFP.

In the Tarn-et-Garonne department in the southwest, Damien Garrigues sprayed his apple trees to cover buds in ice in a bid to protect them from even lower temperatures.

“For now it’s not as bad as last year,” he said, noting he lost 20 percent of production in 2021.

Big losses are expected for plum growers in the Lot-at-Garonne department, but not as bad as last year when 100% of plums were destroyed by a cold snap.

The agriculture ministry said it’s too early to draw conclusions about the damage as it’ll only be visible after a few days.

References:

1 Record-setting cold snap hits Europe, stunning spring crops – The Washington Post

2 French fruit, vineyards endure coldest April day in 75 years – AFP

Featured image credit: Global Times (stillshot)

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