France sees hottest year on record in 2022

2022 was the hottest year in France since records began, the country's national weather service has confirmed, as global warming stokes temperatures globally.

France sees hottest year on record in 2022
(Photo by THIERRY ZOCCOLAN / Zoccolan / AFP)

A cascade of extreme weather exacerbated by climate change devastated communities across the planet this year, including sweltering heat and drought across Europe that wilted crops, drove forest fires and saw major rivers shrink to a trickle.

France saw temperatures surge repeatedly in successive heatwaves from May and into October, accompanied by extreme events like wildfires in areas like north-western Brittany, and damaging marine heat waves in the Mediterranean.

“All the months of the year have been warmer than normal, except January and April,” said Meteo France in a statement.

READ ALSO France records 10,000 excess deaths in second hottest summer on record

It estimated the average temperature for the year as a whole would be between 14.2 degrees Celsius and 14.6C degrees depending on December temperatures. That is a significant increase from the previous record of 14.07C seen in 2020, and the highest since records began in 1990.   

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

Annual rainfall is expected to be as much as 25 percent lower than normal, with precipitation in July 85 percent below average. The driest year in France was 1989, which saw a 25 percent rainfall deficit.

Globally, if projections for the rest of 2022 hold, the United Nations says that each of the last eight years will be hotter than any year prior to 2015.

Earth has warmed more than 1.1 degrees Celsius since the late 19th century, with roughly half of that increase occurring in the past 30 years, the World Meteorological Organisation said in a report in November.

Greenhouse gases accounting for more than 95 percent of warming are all at record levels, the WMO’s annual State of the Global Climate found.

READ ALSO IN NUMBERS: How hot has France’s record-breaking 2022 been?

In the European Alps, glacier melt records have been shattered in 2022, with average thickness losses of between three and over four metres (between 9.8 and over 13 feet), the most ever recorded. Switzerland has lost more than a third of its glacier volume since 2001.

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France destroys seaside flats threatened by coastal erosion

French authorities on Friday started demolishing a seaside block of flats that has come to symbolise the country's battle against climate change-linked coastal erosion.

France destroys seaside flats threatened by coastal erosion

When the four-storey building was built behind the beach in the southwestern Gironde region in 1967, it stood 200 metres away from the shoreline.

But its 75 or so flats in the town of Soulac-sur-Mer had to be evacuated in 2014 after the sea crept up to within 20 metres of the structure.

Local authorities scrambled to rid the building of asbestos in the following years, before a huge mechanical digger took a swing at its facade on Friday, as several former residents looked on.

“It’s the memories of four generations” that are being destroyed, said 76-year-old Vincent Duprat, one of the home owners.

The sea “has taken back what is rightfully hers”.

MAP The French towns at urgent risk from coastal erosion

Environment Minister Christophe Bechu said the demolition was a sign of “what the rising waters and coastal erosion have is store for lots of other areas along the French coastline”.

By 2100, 20 percent of the coastline and up to 50,000 homes would be affected, he said.

Erosion is a natural phenomenon that has helped shape our continents over millennia.

But scientists say it is being accelerated by the warming of the planet, exacerbated by rising sea levels brought about by melting ice caps and glaciers, and by the more powerful waves that warmer oceans hold.

The sandy beaches of the Bay of Biscay between France and Spain are expected to recede by 50 metres by 2050, the Observatory of the Nouvelle-Aquitaine Coastline says.

But climate change and rising sea levels could increase this by an extra 20 metres in some areas, the Observatory’s Nicolas Bernon said.

In 2020, after a seven-year legal battle, a court ruled that French authorities should compensate families who had been forced to evacuate the building in Soulac-sur-Mer to the tune of 70 percent of the original value of their homes.