‘Don’t rule out a hot French summer just yet’

Forget about any 75 percent tax rate, the on-going cold and wet weather is enough to push people living in France to seek exile abroad. Is France really heading for the coldest summer in 200 years, as some in the know have suggested? We speak to a forecaster to find out.

'Don't rule out a hot French summer just yet'
Will we see the sun in France this summer? Photo: Meteo France.

Weather forecasters in France right now are becoming as loathed as bankers and tax inspectors.

That’s mainly because they have had the temerity to predict all the wash-outs, storms and unseasonal low temperatures that have hit France recently.

After a long, cold winter and a spring that saw temperatures in some parts of the country up to six degrees lower than average for this time of year, the French are starting to question whether it will be even worth booking their annual holiday at the beach this summer.

An article on French weather site Le Chaine Meteo this week suggested summer 2013 could be as cold as the fabled 1816 summer, which also followed a cold winter.

In a separate piece more solid predictions for the summer La Chaine Meteo predicted there is a 70 percent chance that we will have a "cold summer and only an 8.5 percent possibility of a hot one.

However Jean-Pierre Ceron a climatologist from Meteo France told The Local that all hope is not lost and that we should not read too much into the failed French spring.

“Just because winter has been cold and spring has been wet we should not expect summer to follow suit,” Ceron said.

“Studies have been done that showed there’s no significant relationship between a cold spring and cold summer.

The conditions over the oceanic basins of the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian oceans makes it difficult for forecasters to make long term predictions about whether the Riviera will indeed be baked in sun this year or whether the school holidays will be a wash out in Brittany, Ceron explained.

“The simple fact is that it is very difficult to make seasonal predictions this year, so we just do not know what the summer will bring,” Ceron says.

Although the difficulty in predicting the long term forecast this summer allows us to keep our hopes up somewhat, Ceron says we can forget about enjoying any heat waves in June.

“We cannot be optimistic about the monthly forecasts. Temperatures should remain lower than normal for this time of year, but if we can have a normal July and a normal August then in the end it won’t be a bad summer,” he said.

“Just because the spring has been wet and the start of summer cold, it does not mean we cannot expect some heat waves in August.

“Last year we also had a wet spring but in August we saw the sun come out,” Ceron argued.

It will not just be school kids and families keeping their fingers crossed they will see some sun this summer. France’s tourist industry, which is already under pressure because of the financial squeeze could face a miserable few month if the clouds do not part.

"The industry is believed to have suffered losses of around 10 percent," Didier Arine director of agency Protourisme told French daily Le Parisien.

"Generally we cannot make up for the losses and if the horrible weather continues there is a risk the French will head abroad for heir summer holidays," Arino continued.

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Scorching summer was France’s second hottest on record

Three heatwaves since June produced France's second-hottest summer since records began in 1900, the Météo France weather service said on Tuesday, warning that scorching temperatures will be increasingly common as the climate crisis intensifies.

Scorching summer was France's second hottest on record

With 33 days of extreme heat overall, average temperatures for June, July and August were 2.3C above normal for the period of 1991-2020.

It was surpassed only by the 2003 heatwave that caught much of France unprepared for prolonged scorching conditions, leading to nearly 15,000 heat-related deaths, mainly among the elderly.

Data is not yet available for heat-related deaths this summer, but it is likely to be significantly lower than 15,000 thanks to preventative measures taken by local and national authorities. 

Most experts attribute the rising temperatures to the climate crisis, with Météo France noting that over the past eight summers in France, six have been among the 10-hottest ever.

By 2050, “we expect that around half of summer seasons will be at comparable temperatures, if not higher,” even if greenhouse gas emissions are contained, the agency’s research director Samuel Morin said at a press conference.

The heat helped drive a series of wildfires across France this summer, in particular a huge blaze in the southwest that burned for more than a month and blackened 20,000 hectares. 

Unusually, wildfires also broke out even in the normally cooler north of the country, and in total an area five times the size of Paris burned over the summer. 

Adding to the misery was a record drought that required widespread limits on water use, with July the driest month since 1961 – many areas still have water restrictions in place.

MAP: Where in France are there water restrictions and what do they mean?

Forecasters have also warned that autumn storms around the Mediterranean – a regular event as air temperatures cool – will be unusually intense this year because of the very high summer temperatures. A storm that hit the island of Corsica in mid August claimed six lives. 

“The summer we’ve just been through is a powerful call to order,” Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne said on Monday, laying out her priorities for an “ecological planning” programme to guide France’s efforts against climate change.