Violent storms and floods forecast for south of France this autumn

Violent storms, flooding and landslides are being predicted for the south of France this autumn, with 9 million people affected by long-term weather alerts in 15 areas.

Violent storms and floods forecast for south of France this autumn
The aftermath of deadly storms in Vallee de la Roya, in October 2020. (Photo: Christophe Simon / AFP)

The warning came from Christophe Béchu, Minister of Ecological Transition, as he launched the government’s seventh life-saving seasonal storm awareness campaign.

The risk this year is such that the annual campaign – which targets 15 départements in the south of the country – has been extended until November 30th. Previous years’ schemes have ended on October 31st.

Ministère de la Transition écologique et de la Cohésion des territoires

“Unfortunately, all the climatic conditions are set so that we find ourselves again this year with very violent phenomena [in the autumn],” Christophe Béchu, Minister of Ecological Transition, announced on Tuesday.

Weather experts and climate scientists have already warned that violent and sometimes deadly storms – known as épisodes cévenol or épisodes méditerranéen – are likely to be more intense this year because the Mediterranean sea is several degrees warmer than usual.

Ministère de la Transition écologique et de la Cohésion des territoires

Abnormally high temperatures in the Mediterranean Sea, three to five degrees above normal, means that “the warmer the Mediterranean, the more water evaporates, the more it goes into the sky and the more potential it has to lead to very heavy rainfall,” Christophe Person, head of BFMTV’s weather desk, explained.

READ ALSO French forecasters predict unusually violent Mediterranean storms this autumn 

Meanwhile, the historic drought in France this summer means that the ground is parched, which means water will not soak into the ground – as this experiment demonstrates – and therefore makes flash flooding much more likely.

Météo-France reported on its website in early August that, “at the national level, since July 17th, France set a new record of soil drought every day” – adding that the conditions are worst in the south of the country.

READ ALSO Is the French Riviera better equipped to avoid more deadly floods?

“The soils are so dry, the temperatures are so high, that it can promote phenomena of diluvian floods that cause up to 200 litres of water per square meter and can be dramatic for the inhabitants,” Béchu said, as he warned residents of 15 départements along the Mediterranean arc to be alert to the risks of flooding and landslides.

Ministère de la Transition écologique et de la Cohésion des territoires

The 15 départements on high alert this autumn are: Alpes de-Haute-Provence, Alpes-Maritimes, Ardèche, Aveyron, Aude, Bouches-du-Rhône, Corse-du-Sud, Haute-Corse, Drôme, Gard, Hérault, Lozère, Pyrénées-Orientales, Var and Vaucluse.

They are home to some 9.1 million people, who are advised to pay close attention to weather reports Meteo France, including its weather alerts system, and flood warnings from Vigicrues – and be aware of the appropriate action to take in case of storms.

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French ‘eco-adventurer’ runs 100 marathons for climate

A 30-year-old Frenchman is running 100 marathons in as many days to raise awareness of the carbon footprint left by major sporting events.

French 'eco-adventurer' runs 100 marathons for climate

“I do to my body what we do to the planet,” Nicolas Vandenelsken, who calls himself an “eco-adventurer,”  told AFP as he reached Paris on his 84th marathon, having crossed 10 regions since September 3.

His itinerary of 42.2-kilometre (26.2-mile) marathons is to resemble a heart when seen on a map of France.

Vandenelsken — an activist in two associations dedicated to climate awareness in sport — has met children, associations and farmers along the way.

In Paris, he had a meeting with French Sports Minister Amelie Oudea-Castera, saying he told her, “Sport is an incredible lever to reach a maximum number of people.”

Vandenelsken, who had doctors check his fitness before setting out, told AFP that “with my mental strength and with my training, I am able to get through this.”

But he added: “I wouldn’t advise anybody to run 100 marathons in 100 days, because I expect to feel the impact of this in my joints in five or 10 years’ time.”

Vandenelsken timed his runs to coincide with the football World Cup in Qatar which has been criticised for, among other things, its carbon footprint.

But he told AFP his concern went well beyond one major event.

“All these big organisations should think first of respecting the integrity of nature before thinking about the business of sport, before thinking about money,” he said.

Among concrete measures, Vandenelsken said he would like to see transport quotas for major events like cycling race Tour de France, and renovation of existing sports infrastructure rather than building them from scratch.

“My aim is to get a law voted,” he told AFP.

His final marathon is to take him to Valenciennes, in northern France, on December 10.