Winter weather: Pyrenees and French Alps set for more snow

It has already been a remarkable December for snow in the Pyrénées - but more heavy falls are forecast from Wednesday, while the Alps are also set to enjoy more fresh snow.

A male skier wearing a facemask, helmet and skiing gear waits for a skilift at a ski resort in the French Pyrénées
There's much more snow in the Pyrénées now than when this photgraph was taken on November 20, 2021. Photo: Raymond Roig / AFP

The weekend was marked by sustained snowfall in the Pyrénées, with an average of between 50cm and 70cm of snow at altitudes above 1200m, rising in some areas towards western areas of the mountain chain to 1m.

According to Météo-France, the level of snowfall in the west of the Pyrénées is remarkable for the time of year, especially since accumulations were considered ‘very low’ as recently as November 24th. The forecaster said the winter snow covering below 2,000m – the average now is 1m at 1500m – is among the best for the beginning of December and equivalent to normal levels in mid-January.

The 1.37m of snow recorded at Arette La Pierre Saint Martin (1,650m) on December 6th is a record for the month since the weather station opened there in December 1971. The 1.36m recorded at the Soum Couy automatic weather station is in the top four accumulations recorded there since the station opened in January 1997.

A record 2m of snow was also recorded at Cauterets snow-meteorological observation network post, in the Hautes-Pyrénées, on December 6th – thanks to the 1m snowfall between Friday and Monday, while the 1.75m of snow recorded at lac d’Ardiden (2,445m) is the highest since the station there opened in October 1995.

The new falls, due to start on the evening of Tuesday, December 7th, are linked to the Storm Barra weather system that is currently battering southwest Ireland and is set to move across Ireland and into Great Britain.

While winds in France will not reach speeds of 157kph recorded at Fastnet, off the coast of southwest Ireland, earlier on Tuesday, strong gusts are forecast in the northwest of France, and the Atlantic coast will experience heavy seas.

On Wednesday, heavy snow is again forecast in the Pyrénées. “Snow will fall again at relatively low altitude … with falls potentially impacting the road network”, Météo-France warned in its evening bulletin on Monday.

“The Pyrénées could see another 1m-plus of snow.”

With the new snow, however, there’s a warning. “Snow depths, greater than 2m on the ground, would then become extraordinary over a good part of the range for the first half of December,” the forecaster said, warning of the increased risk of avalanches.

Over in the Alps, the remnants of the weather system is expected to bring substantial snowfall, particularly in western and southern areas, and another storm from the northwest will reach the mountain range on Friday.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


Swathes of France placed on alert for post-heatwave storms and gales

The worst of the recent heatwave may be have passed but parts of central, eastern and north-eastern France were placed on alert on Thursday over the risk of violent thunderstorms.

Swathes of France placed on alert for post-heatwave storms and gales

Unfortunately, the severe weather in France has not quite finished yet.

Météo France placed 25 départements in central, eastern and northeastern France under the ‘orange’ alert, warning residents of the risk of severe thunderstorms this Thursday and Friday.

The départements concerned are Ain, Allier, Ardennes, Aube, Cantal, Côte-d’Or, Doubs, Jura, Loire, Haute-Loire, Marne, Haute-Marne, Meurthe-et-Moselle, Meuse, Moselle, Nièvre, Puy-de-Dôme, Bas-Rhin, Haut-Rhin, Rhône, Haute-Saône, Saône-et-Loire, Vosges, Yonne, and Territoire de Belfort.

Forecasters estimate that storms will roll in around midday and last into the night of Thursday or into Friday morning.

“These storms will could be violent,” warned Meteo France. Meteorologists are predicting locally strong hail falls, heavy rainfall -with accumulations of around 30 to 50 mm in under an hour – and strong gusts of wind, which could reach 70 to 90 km/h.

On Wednesday evening, parts of the Pays de la Loire region experienced severe thunderstorms, some of which caused damage. In the town of Le Coteau, hail caused signficant damage, with the mayor telling Franceinfo that the town was “devastated by a torrent of hail.” No injuries were reported, but there was “considerable material damage.”

Earlier in the week, France’s western départements had also been on orange alert for violent thunderstorms. 

Places like Bordeaux saw significant hail-fall, which some were able to catch on video:

Meanwhile, the orange alert for heat has been lifted for the six départements in eastern France that were still seeing high temperatures. Now, most of the south, southwest, and west of the country have returned to a ‘yellow’ alert level.