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WEATHER

Just how hot is this week’s May heatwave in France?

Temperature records are tumbling as France swelters in an early summer hot spell - and forecasters predict more highs will be reached before any respite.

Just how hot is this week's May heatwave in France?
Children cool off in the "Miroir d'Eau" in Bordeaux, on May 18, 2022 as France bakes under a hot spell. (Photo: Philippe Lopez / AFP)

In the northern département of Manche, a département unaccustomed to high temperatures, the mercury reached 26C in La Hague on Tuesday, breaking a record for May dating back to 1922. The highest temperature on Tuesday across France was 32.8C recorded in Agen. But that record is not expected to last long.

Keraunos, the observatory for tornadoes and violent thunderstorms, warned that France could see a new national temperature record close to 37C between Friday and Sunday, some +17C higher than normal for the time of year.

According to national forecaster Météo France, temperatures were expected to hit 34C in Toulouse on Wednesday, beating the May record of 33.1C in the Pink City set in 2001, while Bordeaux was expected to see similarly high temperatures. Forecasters predicted 31C in Paris, compared to around 22C normally, while in the far north of the country, 29C was expected in Lille.

According to François Jobard, forecaster for Météo France, “since at least 1947, there has never been a ‘heat wave’ in May, because the hottest day in May remained well below 25.3 ° C (22.9°C: May 28, 2017). In fact, until now, this threshold has never been reached before a June 20…”

The reason for the unseasonably high temperatures? Since the beginning of May, France has been blocked under an anticyclone. “We are already seeing an anomaly of more than 2.7 degrees higher than average,” a Meteo France spokesperson told Franceinfo. 

Forecasters fear temperatures across the whole of the month could end up being 3C above normal. The hottest May on record was in 2011, when average temperatures were 1.85C higher than the average.

A European Commission report said the hottest May day since measurements began was expected on Wednesday, particularly in the Rhone valley.

Despite storms forecast for Wednesday in the north and west of the country, which are set to spread across France over the weekend, Météo France forecaster Gaétan Heymes said in a Tweet that it is “almost certain that this month will be drier than normal. Beating the 2011 drought record remains largely possible…”

That will mean nine of the past 10 months – December is the odd one out – have been drier than normal.

Meteorologists say the abnormal temperatures risk becoming more frequent in the coming years as a result of climate change.

“Heatwaves are set to become more frequent and tend to set in earlier in the spring than before,” Météo France said.

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WEATHER

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.

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