Storms, rain and strong winds forecast for week France’s café terraces reopen

The terraces of France's bars, restaurants and cafés are set to reopen from May 19th  - but while many people will be looking forward to sitting down for a drink with friends and family for the first time since October, the weather has other ideas.

Storms, rain and strong winds forecast for week France's café terraces reopen
Photo: Mychela Daniau/AFP

National forecaster Météo-France predicts a week of unsettled and chilly weather, punctuated by storms and heavy rain for much of the country, and temperatures below seasonal norms. Barely a day will pass without rain, they said.

Mediterranean areas may be spared the worst of the rain – and could enjoy some decent sunny spells – but strong Mistral and Tramontane winds from the north and northwest are expected.

In the south, temperatures are expected to reach around 20C in Nice and around 17C further west along the Mediterranean coast in Marseille and Perpignan. Elsewhere, forecasters predict 15C in Paris and Biarritz, 12C in Limoges, 13C in Brest and 11C in Aurillac. 

May is typically an unsettled month in France. Generally, only October, November and December are wetter – and this month has, so far, been the wettest for 60 years, Météo-France experts have said.

Meteorologists say we should not be surprised.

Fluctuating conditions are normal for this time of year, La Chaîne Météo’s Régis Crépet, told Le Parisien. In 2015, a May heatwave sent the mercury soaring above 30C. In 2016 and 2017, violent thunderstorms and frosts were the headline weather events.

The reason this month in 2021 has been so wet and cold? Météo-France said that the Azores high – a large subtropical and semi-permanent centre of high atmospheric pressure just south of the islands in the Atlantic – was not yet strong enough this year to force many ocean weather systems away from France.

Establishments serving food and drink will be allowed to open outside from May 19th, with a maximum of six people per table, and up to 50 percent normal capacity. Indoor areas are set to reopen from June 9th, depending on the health situation.

IN DETAIL France’s calendar for reopening after lockdown

Best advice: take a coat…

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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.