This story, first updated Wednesday afternoon, was updated Thursday morning.

Frigid air, spilling south from the Arctic, has invaded Europe and Alaska, setting back spring and challenging long-standing records.

In Europe, the cold has come as a shock, gripping the region just days after a burst of summerlike warmth. Some areas that experienced their warmest March weather on record last week are now enduring the coldest April weather observed. Switzerland and Slovenia both established record low temperatures for April on Wednesday while Thursday morning brought a second straight morning of record cold to parts of France and Italy.

Meanwhile, the temperature in Alaska could plummet as low as minus-50 in the coming days, challenging the lowest mark recorded in the Last Frontier during April.

Extreme cold and snow in Europe

As an Arctic cold front plunged south Monday into Tuesday, temperatures tanked over much of Europe. By Wednesday morning, numerous locations in Central and Eastern Europe saw the mercury settle at April record lows.

Here are some of the cold extremes reported Wednesday:

  • Slovenia endured its lowest April temperature on record, according to ARSO vreme, Slovenia’s meteorological agency. It tweeted that the mercury plummeted to minus-5.1 degrees (minus-20.6 Celsius) in Nova vas na Blokah, a village in the central part of the country.
  • MétéoSuisse, Switzerland’s meteorological agency, tweeted the temperature toppled to minus-15.3 degrees (minus-26.3 Celsius) at Jungfraujoch, a tourist attraction 11,362 feet high in the Alps and home to Europe’s highest-elevation train station. It was the lowest temperature on record in April anywhere in the country. It also tweeted that a weather balloon measured a temperature of minus-38.4 degrees (minus-39.1 Celsius) at an altitude of roughly 17,388 feet (5,300 meters), the lowest recorded in April in Switzerland.
  • Frosty conditions covered much of France early Wednesday, where numerous locations observed their lowest April temperature on record, according to Météo-France, the country’s meteorological agency. The low temperature averaged over the country was below freezing, near the coldest levels on record (since 1947) in early April.
  • In the Italian Alps, near the border with Switzerland, the temperature fell to minus-27.8 degrees (minus-33.2 Celsius), the coldest on record in April, according to Etienne Kapikian, a meteorologist with Météo-France.
  • Several locations in Croatia experienced their lowest-observed temperatures in April, according to Kapikian. Maximiliano Herrera, who tracks global temperature extremes, tweeted that the low temperature of 10.4 degrees (minus-12 Celsius) in Gospic, a town in the central Croatia, marked the lowest April temperature on record in a populated location in the country.
  • The United Kingdom had its coldest April night (Tuesday night into early Wednesday) since 2018 while, in England, it was the coldest since 2013, according to the U.K. Met Office.

On Thursday morning, numerous locations in France and Italy saw their coldest April weather on record, with temperatures well below freezing.

Serge Zaka, an expert in climate and agriculture in France, tweeted that there has been significant and extensive damage to crops due to widespread freezing conditions that followed last week’s record warmth, which caused buds to open. In an interview with Reussir, an online portal for agriculture in France, Zaka said the cold snap was having impacts all over western Europe but were the worst in France because buds hatched just before the frost.

In addition to the cold, many parts of Europe saw snow, with images of a fresh coating from Belgrade to Brussels to Munich to Copenhagen.

The extreme cold and snow come just one week after a historic pulse of warmth to end March. The Netherlands, France, Belgium and Luxembourg all established record high temperatures for the month. In Slovenia, the temperature surged to 77.5 degrees (25.3 Celsius) on March 31 only to tumble to minus-5.1 degrees eight days later.

The anomalous cold covering Europe presently is forecast to retreat over Central and Eastern Europe in the next few days, but chilly weather may linger in Western Europe from Spain into the U.K.

Excessively cold in Alaska

While much of North America has been mild in recent days, a deep freeze has overtaken Alaska, bringing record low temperatures.

On Tuesday, Bettles and Fairbanks plunged to record lows of minus-33 and minus-24. On Thursday, temperature fell as low as minus-45 in Alaska’s North Slope region, with wind chills as low as minus-74.

And the forecast is for even colder temperatures in the days ahead.

The most extreme cold is anticipated Friday into Saturday as a lobe of the polar vortex over the Arctic Ocean north of Utqiagvik, Alaska’s northernmost city, drops south. In Utqiaġvik, a weather balloon on Wednesday measured the coldest April air on record just above the ground.

“This cold airmass aloft will produce record or near record cold temperatures over much of the Interior Friday and into the weekend,” wrote the National Weather Service forecast office in Fairbanks in a discussion.

The temperature in Fairbanks is forecast to drop to minus-30 Friday night into Saturday morning, about 47 degrees below average and close to the April record low of minus-32. Some areas could approach minus-50, close to the state record for April, according to Rick Thoman, a climate specialist with the University of Alaska at Fairbanks.

The cold air is predicted to retreat next week, with relatively balmy highs into the 30s in Fairbanks on Monday and Tuesday.

Climate context

The pockets of cold over Europe and Alaska, while noteworthy, are exceptions to the warmer-than-average weather prevailing over much of the Northern Hemisphere. The temperature averaged over the entire hemisphere Wednesday was 1.6 (0.9 Celsius) degrees above the 1979-2000 average.