Here comes the snow: 50 departments in France placed on alert

Much of France is getting its first taste of winter this week, with 50 departments placed on alert for snow and ice.

Here comes the snow: 50 departments in France placed on alert
Photo: AFP
Snow and ice is expected to hit much of France, with national weather agency Meteo France placing 50 departments on yellow alert – the third highest warning level.
The departments, including nine in Brittany, Normandy and the Pays de la Loire were placed on yellow alert — the third highest warning which advises people to be careful and stay up-to-date with the situation — at 6am on Wednesday morning.
Drivers are warned to be particularly vigilant.
“Our teams are on the warpath. In Reims, if the temperature of the road drops below 2C, we start salting,” Manuela Thomas of the Sanef network, a private company that runs French motorways, told Le Parisien.
Map: Meteo France
The current warnings are expected to remain in place until Thursday morning but it seems likely they'll be renewed, with forecasts saying the winter cold will last until at least Sunday.
“We will end up at temperatures worthy of the heart of winter, from mid-January to late-January,” Olivier Proust, forecaster at Météo France told Le Parisien.
On Thursday and Friday, snow is expected in two-thirds of the country, from Normandy to the Grand Est, and then down to the south of the Massif Central.
And the news may justifiably come as a surprise, with this being the first time snow has been expected so early in the year since 2010.
“It's been seven years since we've had such early snow,” said Pascal Scaviner, head of the forecast service at the Weather Channel, according to Le Parisien.
Weather on Thursday evening. Map: Meteo France 
While the mountains in France have already had their fair share of snow, between Wednesday and Sunday it is expected to fall on lower ground around the country.
Snow flurries are predicted to hit the south of Burgundy in east-central France on Wednesday before shifting towards Franche-Comté in the east, said Scaviner. On Thursday, Normandy is expected to see “sleet and snow showers,” Scaviner added.
So far, departments surrounding Paris are on alert, although the French capital and the area immediately outside the city known as the “Petite Couronne”, Deux-Sèvres, Vendée, Vienne and Haute-Vienne have not yet been issued a warning. 
Paris is due to get a dusting off snow on Friday morning, if everyone in the French capital crosses their fingers.

“We will end up at temperatures worthy of the heart of winter, from mid-January to late-January,” says Olivier Proust, forecaster at Météo France.


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.