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CLIMATE CRISIS

France’s ‘coldest village’ has its first frost-free October on record

The hamlet that styles itself as 'France's coldest village' is in the news again.

France's 'coldest village' has its first frost-free October on record
The village of Mouthe, pictured in 2017 in its more usual appearance with frost and snow. Photo by SEBASTIEN BOZON / AFP

The coldest place in the whole of France is, apparently, the village of Mouthe in the Doubs département of France, close to the Swiss border.

The village (which is pronounced ‘moot’) bases its claim on one January day in 1968, when Météo France recorded France’s coldest temperature as -36.7C.

The Mouthe marie says that this wasn’t even the coldest day in the village. Officials claim a record of -41C in 1985, but this has not been officially corroborated by Météo France so -36.7C retains its status as the coldest official temperature record.

And it’s not just a one-off either, on average temperatures fall below -25C at least every other year in Mouthe.

Mouthe proclaims itself as France’s coldest village. Photo by Sebastien Bozon / AFP

The reason why Mouthe is so chilly is because it sits between two mountain ranges and is at the bottom of a basin-shaped valley where, if there is no wind, freezing air falls to the valley floor. 

It stays cool in the summer too with the mercury rarely rising above 30C, so if you’re not a fan of heatwaves, then this is the perfect escape location.

The reason Mouthe is in the news again is that this year – for the first year on record – no frost was recorded in October.

Weather records for Mouthe go back to 1880, although the records for the years 1932-1943 are missing, but scientists can say this is the first recorded instance of there being no frost in Mouthe in October.

During the period 1951-1980, the village saw an average of 18 days in October that had frost or sub-zero temperatures, while unusually cold years in 1888 and 1974 saw 28 frosty days apiece – basically the whole month.

But in recent years the frosts have been getting rarer, with both 2004 and 2006 recording just two frosty days each.

The warmer temperatures are also affecting ski resorts in both France and Switzerland, where the opening of many resorts has been delayed by a lack of snow.

The frostless 2022 follows an exceptionally warm October for the whole of France, with temperatures of 31C recorded in the south west in the final week of October, while northern France saw temperatures of 23C-26C. 

Meanwhile the drought continues and dozens of areas in France remain under strict water conditions while farmers fear losing another season’s crops.

The warm October comes at the end of a year that broke all sorts of temperature records in France, and across the world, as the climate crisis accelerates and global temperatures continue to rise.

IN NUMBERS How hot has France’s record-breaking October been?

The city of Paris recently ran an emergency-planning exercise for the day that temperatures hit 50C, something expected to happen in the years to come.

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ENVIRONMENT

France under pressure to save dolphins from trawlers

Hundreds of dolphins are washing up on France's Atlantic coast and thousands more are believed killed in fishermen's nets each year, as environmentalists and Brussels pressure the government to protect the marine mammals.

France under pressure to save dolphins from trawlers

On Wednesday, Allain Bougrain-Dubourg, head of the League for the Protection of Birds (LPO), said he would write to President Emmanuel Macron that “the time has come to do our utmost to save dolphins from mistreatment or even extinction.

“This dramatic situation is even less acceptable given that it is avoidable,” Bougrain-Dubourg added.

Pro-dolphin activists say harmful fishing activities, including deep-sea and sea-bed trawling, must be halted for several weeks in the Bay of Biscay between France and Spain.

The Pelagis ocean observatory has spotted a surge in dolphin deaths on the Atlantic coast, with 127 common dolphins washed up in January alone — up from 73 in the same month last year.

Increased dolphin deaths are usually seen later in the year, during their February-March coastal feeding season that brings them closer to fishing vessels chasing hake and sea bass.

This year the increase in finds is “especially early”, Pelagis said this month.

Over the whole of 2022, 669 dolphins washed up — down from 1,299 in 2020.

Scientists believe that more than 80 percent of dead dolphins sink or decompose at sea rather than washing ashore, suggesting the real number of deaths is far higher at up to 11,000 per year.

Of the washed-up dolphins, “most presented signs of being caught in fishing equipment”, Pelagis said, with the LPO singling out “slices in the tail fins and clear traces of nets” on their skin.

‘Half-measures’

CIEM, a scientific body that tracks North Atlantic ecosystems, has for years urged a winter pause for some indiscriminate fishing techniques, meeting fierce resistance from industrial fishermen.

After two years of pressure from the European Commission and under the spotlight from activists, Paris has so far offered an eight-point plan with technical measures, stopping far short of an outright ban. 

Measures include a voluntary observer scheme aboard fishing vessels, satellite tracking and fitting trawlers with cameras or acoustic repellent devices that drive the dolphins away.

Many fishing ships are already fitted with the devices in a “large-scale experiment” to test their effectiveness, the government said.

But the LPO denounced the government moves as “half-measures… that will change nothing and cost us precious time”.

Environmentalist group Sea Shepherd said the repellent devices “create huge exclusion zones in dolphins’ feeding grounds” that risk cutting them off from needed nourishment.

Paris has not completely closed the door to temporary bans, suggesting “time- and space-limited closures” to fishing could be tested in the Bay of Biscay in winter 2024-25 “if there are no satisfactory results in reducing accidental catches” of dolphins.

That isn’t soon enough for the activists. Sea Shepherd have filed a criminal complaint on January 16th against persons unknown over the failure to intervene.

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