Mercury to top 40C (again) in central France

France's weather agency issued a heatwave warning for central France on Friday, predicting temperatures to reach 40C in some parts of the country.

Mercury to top 40C (again) in central France
A woman stays cool in Lyon, where temperatures reached 40C on Thursday. Photo: AFP
France's scorching summer shows no sign of fizzling out.
On Friday, weather agency Météo France issued an “orange alert” for the Rhône département in central France, which is set to stay in place until 9pm on Saturday. 
That's the second highest warning level and asks the public to be “vigilant”.
Temperatures in the area have been high in recent days, with Lyon reaching 39C on Thursday and nearby Vallon-Pont-D'Arc hitting 41C. Nights have been warm too, with the mercury not dropping below 23C in the area. 
Friday afternoon will be a sweltering one for much of the eastern half of France, with hot spots especially in the eastern central area, continuing into the night (see maps below). 
But if you're hoping for a warm weekend you'll likely be disappointed. Showers will move in from the west on Saturday morning, developing into storms in the east by Sunday evening.

(Temperatures will reach 39C in some areas on Friday afternoon. Photo: Météo France)

(Some part of central eastern France won't drop below 27C in the middle of the night. Photo: Météo France)

This summer has been a particularly hot one for France and left many areas in drought and with water restrictions imposed. 
July's heatwave, which claimed the lives of at least 700 people, has also affected tourists and climbers in the French Alps, where authorities have warned that there are risks of avalanches on Mont Blanc as the warm temperatures soften the snow pack.

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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.