Since, at the moment, Europe is preparing for probably the strongest cold outbreak this winter (February 2018). Weather models are consistently predicting lows reaching -30 °C or even lower in some parts of the continent. With strong winds in some parts, the wind chill index will make the cold even more unpleasant. While some all-time coldest temperature records will probably stay intact, it is an excellent opportunity to visualize historically lowest temperature records for every European country.
Lowest temperature records in Europe
The winner is, of course, Russia, at least its European part, with -58.1 °C. Other "-50 °C or lower" members are Norway, Sweden, and Finland.
Atlantic ocean makes for milder cold records
While Iceland is even further north, its Atlantic ocean-driven climate leaves the record at -37.9 °C. Therefore ranking it lower than other countries on the same or similar geographic latitudes. Similar effects are the reasons why Denmark, the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg, the UK, Ireland, and Portugal have, as a result, relatively high minimum recorded temperatures.
France, Germany, Austria, Italy, and Switzerland are pretty cold – all below -40 °C, with Italy dropping down to -49.6 °C. The reason? Temperatures are fairly low due to Alps, of course. Spain holds a record of -32 °C degrees measured in the Pyrenees mountain range.
Central and eastern European countries, together with Baltics, are typically around -40 °C degrees. Open plains of northern European come with little to no mountains As such, they are readily available for cold outbreaks from Russia. Also, maritime influences are negligible, and continental climate characteristics dominate the area.
Slovenia and Croatia have very similar lowest temperature records. Slovenia comes at -34.5 °C, while Croatia is just 1/10th of a degree colder, with -34.6 °C measured in Gračac, on January 13th, 2003.
Close-up: Balkan countries + Greece
Balkan countries (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, Kosovo, Macedonia, Albania and Bulgaria) look towards the Bosnia and Herzegovina and its temperature record of -42.5 °C, measured on mountain Igman near Sarajevo. Serbia comes second with -39.5 °C.
The Balkans is also the only region with an additional map created for better legibility. Due to a fairly large number of countries on a small and limited geographic space – data visualization is especially challenging.
Further down to the south, Greece recorded -27.8 °C. The island nation of Cyprus recorded -16 °C as its lowest temperature ever recorded. Location? Mount Olympus. How fitting!
Malta, the misfit
The only European country with lowest recorded temperature above 0 °C is Malta with mild +1.4 °C degrees. That's almost 60 degrees (59.5 °C) difference between the Russian and Maltese records.
The complete list of lowest temperatures and countries
|Russia (European part)||-58.1 °C|
|Bosnia and Herzegovina||-42.5 °C|
|North Macedonia||-31.5 °C|
|The Netherlands||-27.4 °C|
|UK (Scotland)||-27.2 °C|
The lowest temperature records of smaller European countries (Andorra, Liechtenstein, San Marino, Holy See, Monaco) are not shown since they are fairly small in geographic terms. While the best effort was made to check the data and temperature values, there might be some errors. Therefore, in case you notice an error, feel free to reach out and let me know in the comments or shout at me on Twitter – I am happy to update the maps.
In conclusion, keep in mind that only official or confirmed records are used. There have been many locally measured lower temperatures from those shown on the map. However, only a common WMO (World Meteorological Organization) standard was used for making this visualization, therefore only the data conforming to WMO standards is shown.