Jim Andrews

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How Cold Europe Was in March 2013

April 1, 2013; 8:49 AM ET


Unusual cold and snow made for a memorable month of March 2013 in the UK and much of Europe.

The month as a whole was coldest in what amounts to essentially the northern half of Europe, where average monthly temperature was at least 4 to 8 degrees F below normal. In Germany, one city, Leipzig, registered a mean reading more than 10 degrees below normal.

So cold was March that it, in some spots, the month that normally ushers in spring was the coldest month of the winter season, even undercutting January.

Significant March cold also stretched over much of France, Spain and Italy to the northern Balkan region.

Exceptional falls of snow covered parts of the UK, the Low Countries, Germany, France, Austria, Poland, Hungary, Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and more.

The month began innocuously enough, with near- to above-normal temperatures for the first one to two weeks. However, the weather flipped abruptly, beginning by the 10th of the month in Scandinavia to the UK, spurred by unusually strong arctic high pressure.

This first outbreak of cold helped to set up a major snowstorm over northern France, Belgium and central Germany. Snow fell locally in the UK.

Within a few days, the cold spread southward, invading the Mediterranean basin, accompanied locally by snow across Spain and Italy to the Balkan Peninsula.

A major winter storm that incubated over Italy then swept northeastward over central and eastern Europe to western and northern Russia, burying areas from Hungary to Belarus to Moscow with snow. Weather observations indicated that highest snowfall may have topped 18 inches.

Arctic cold continued to spread southward by way of Scandinavia as "official" spring began, due to strong high pressure remaining stubbornly across the north.

Within a week, another crippling snowstorm hammered Ukraine and Russia, striking Kiev especially hard. Here again, top snowfall was at least 18 inches to even 2 feet.

Even as Kiev residents were struggling to dig out, snow began to fall in much of the UK. March 23 and 24 of the month brought falls of between 6 inches and 2 feet to hilly areas of central and northern England, southern Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. High winds made it a blizzard with roads blocked by lofty drifts.

The last week of the month brought continued snow to central Europe, including 8 inches at Budapest and 5 inches at Vienna.

Even Easter Sunday, the last day of the month, brought record cold to the U.K. and significant snowfall to north-central Europe.

As the new month gets under way, the flow of arctic cold into northern Europe shows no immediate sign of breaking. From U.K. to northern Russia and from Scandinavia to the Alps, average temperature through at least the end of the week will be at least 5 to 10 degrees F below normal.

The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of AccuWeather, Inc. or AccuWeather.com

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