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WEATHER

France left waterlogged after wettest winter in 60 years

France hasn't seen as much rain in December and January since the rain gauges were set up in 1959, the country's weather service confirmed this week. And the month is not even over.

France left waterlogged after wettest winter in 60 years
AFP

The amount of rainfall to have fallen in France since December 1st is the highest recorded since 1959 – the year when the rain gauge's were set up, Météo France has confirmed.

As a result of all the rain, France has beaten the previous record set back in the winter of 1981/82.

Regions like Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes and Bourgogne-Franche-Comté have seen the most rain ever recorded.

The greater Paris region of Île-de-France, which has seen dramatic floods in recent days as the River Seine burst its banks in Paris saw one of the wettest months ever.

“Several regions have already beaten their own record with twice the normal amount of rainfall” for a month of January said Météo France climatologist Christine Berne.

December saw 50 percent more rain fall in France than an average month.

Some 282.5 mm of rain fell on average across the country during the two months.

“Since early December 2017, France has been subjected to a fast ocean flux, leading to many disturbed weather patterns that were often very active,” said Météo France. “These frequent and abundant rains on already wet soils lead to many floods.”

It's not just the rain. This winter in France has been marked by a lack of sun.

France's northern and eastern areas of Hauts-de-France, Champagne, Alsace and Île-de-France have seen less than 40 hours of sunshine since the start of December.

In flooded Paris the River Seine peaked Monday at more than four metres above its normal level, heralding a lengthy mop-up job for Parisians
after days of rising waters that have put the soggy city on alert.

The saturated ground in the Paris region means that even though the waters are now set to recede, the clean-up will be slow.

“Lessons need to be learned from this,” said top Paris official Michel Delpuech. “We know this type of phenomenon will happen again.” In all some nine departments in France remained on Orange alert – the second highest – for flooding on Tuesday, including Paris.

 

But more rain is forecast starting Wednesday, according to environment minister Nicolas Hulot, and water levels are expected to stay high for at
least another week.

“Let's not chalk up every event to climate change, but even so, these events are more frequent and more intense… so we're going to have to adapt,” Hulot said as he toured by boat some of the flooded towns southeast of Paris on Monday.

Around 1,500 people have been evacuated from their homes in the greater Paris region, according to police, while 1,900 households have lost electricity.

Tourists have also suffered with the capital's river cruise boats out of service and its pretty riverside walkways deep underwater, though plenty have come to goggle instead at the swollen Seine and snap photographs.

The river did not quite reach the 2016 high of 6.1 metres, when priceless artworks had to be evacuated from the Louvre.

But the world's most visited museum was still on alert, along with the Musee d'Orsay and Orangerie galleries, with the lower level of the Louvre's
Islamic arts wing closed to visitors.

CLIMATE CRISIS

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.

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