France hit by a period of high heat

Peak temperatures of 30°C are expected in Clermont-Ferrand, Bordeaux, Montauban, Toulouse and Lyon in the next few days. The risk of drought is also high, due to the low level of rainfall.

The coming week is going to be summery. So is the next one. France should actually be looking at an early, extended and widespread heatwave, with peaks of 30 °C in Clermont-Ferrand, Bordeaux, Montauban, Toulouse and Lyon. Temperatures will also top 25 °C in the North, after a temporary drop on Thursday.

Over the next few days, afternoon maximum temperatures are expected to be 8–9°C above the seasonal norm, compared to the averages for 1981 to 2010. With the changing climate, this reference period no longer seems appropriate and will soon be updated.

“It isn’t a heat wave; the nights will still be pleasant,” said Tristan Amm, weather forecaster at Météo-France. “A spell like this is unusual so early in the year, but not unheard of. In May, we can observe both the last frosts and the first 30°C days.” There is no indication that the summer will be hot. Cautiously, Météo-France recalls that the hottest May since 1945 was in 2011, but the following summer was no hotter than normal.

One thing seems certain, however: Despite a few scattered thunderstorms, it looks as if the drought will be back again. As early as April 1, the Bureau de recherches géologiques et minières (Geological and Mining Research Bureau) drew an ominous map showing a majority of moderately or severely low groundwater tables just before the spring decline. The situation is even more worrying for areas that saw a decline in 2020, particularly Provence, Côte d’Azur and Corsica.

Since January 1, France has recorded a cumulative precipitation shortfall of 35%, again compared to 1981-2010. The winter was not wet enough to effectively restock the groundwater: The overall result is a 22% deficit between September 2021 and March 2022. In fact, every month since then except December has had less than average precipitation. As a result, Grand-Est, Nouvelle-Aquitaine, Bretagne and Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur are struggling.

A spring of contrasts
Spring, when vegetation needs water, is proving a season of contrasts. While March saw some heavy rainfall from Pyrénées-Orientales to Ardèche and heavy rainfall in Aude, Hérault, southern Tarn and eastern Corsica, there was a shortfall of over 70% in the northern Seine.

As of May 4, three quarters of France are affected by this lack of “green water.” The soil is already very dry in the east and southeast of the country, and also in Lozère, Cantal and Meuse.

While it is too early to talk about a severe shortage to come, the signs of a drier and hotter summer than normal are still increasing, warned the team of Bérangère Abba, the junior minister for biodiversity. The office of the junior minister announced that a map will be published next week showing the predicted risk of drought by department, based on a set of indicators that proved rather relevant in 2021. In the meantime, on Monday, May 9, Ms. Abba met with Minister of Agriculture Julien Denormandie, sector representatives and water authorities.

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