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France - Climate

France on 28 June 2019 recorded its hottest temperature ever of 45.1 degrees Celsius, as Europe sweltered in an early summer heatwave already blamed for several deaths. Several people had died around the continent in incidents that authorities are linking to the exceptional weather. A major wildfire raged Friday in Spain, sparked when a pile of chicken dung spontaneously combusted in the heat. Several countries reported record temperatures this week, and France hit its all-time heat record Friday: 45.1 degrees Celsius (111F) in the small southern town of Villevieille, according to French media. The French national weather service activated its highest-level heat danger alert for the first time, putting four regions around Marseille and Montpellier in the south of the country under special watch.

After the deadly heat wave in 2003, which resulted in the death of 15,000 people in France alone, the French government created an emergency plan to deal with future heat-related health problems. The measurement of the impact of the heatwave took into account the real costs and the costs saved for health insurance, the indirect costs (loss of human life, non-productive time) and the intangible costs (estimated value of the loss of quality of life and suffering linked to a decline in health).

The global warming recorded in mainland France during the 20th century is about 30% greater than the average warming throughout the globe. The average annual temperature has risen by 0.95C in mainland France, compared to 0.74C globally. These values are even higher with the second half of the 20th century. If this trend must continue in the same proportions, this means that global warming of 2C will mean warming of almost 3C for France, or in the most pessimistic scenario, global warming of 6C will see warming of 8C. Furthermore, in France, summer warming will be clearly more marked than winter warming. This confirms in particular that episodes of heatwave similar to or more intense than that of 2003 will inevitably occur much more frequently.

Frances climate is temperate, but divided into four distinct climatic areas. The oceanic climate of western France brings average rainfall spread over many days, and modest annual temperature variations (Brittany, Normandy, Atlantic Loire, Loire Valley). Central and eastern Frances continental climate harbours cold winters and hot summers (the Champagne region, Burgundy, Alsace). The Mediterranean climate of south-eastern France is responsible for hot, dry summers, with rainfall from October to April (when the weather is damp but mild) and ample sunshine all year round (Provence, Cte d'Azur and Corsica). Above 600-800m altitudes, Frances mountain climate brings heavy rainfall, and snow three to six months per year.

The situation of France, with one shore on the Mediterranean and another on the Atlantic, is ideally convenient. France herself has the advantage of the best European latitudes. The small triangle to the north of Amiens is in English latitudes, and all the great region south of Lyons is in north Italian latitudes, the space between being in those of Switzerland and Bavaria. It is the best position in Europe, equally free from the cold, wet rigor of Scotland and the dry, hot region of Spain, at least in their excess, though there is something both of Scotch and Spanish weather in the great variety of the French climates. This variety needs to be remembered for France, as there is really no single French climate to be praised or blamed.

The climate of France is greatly diversified, and cannot be described accurately without dividing it into different regions. With a very limited exception, it lies wholly within the more moderate portion of the temperate zone. France may be divided into four climatic regions according to the different vegetable products which different districts are able to mature.

Within the first, and warmest, the olive is successfully cultivated. It forms the southeast part of France, and is chiefly confined to the departments which border on the Mediterranean. The second region is characterized by the general cultivation of maize or Indian corn. The third region reaches north to the extreme limit of the profitable culture of the vine, and may be considered as determined by a line stretching between the mouth of the Loire and the town of Mezieres, in the department of Ardennes. All the country beyond this line is included in the fourth region.

In the northwest the prevalence of winds from that direction often produces a superfluity of moisture, which manifests itself in mists or in frequent and heavy showers of rain. At the opposite extremity, the southeast, a contrary effect is produced, and a sultry, stifling wind wrinkles up the skin and not infrequently spreads fever in its most malignant form. But it is only to a few exceptional districts that these remarks apply. After allowing for them, more than four-fifths of the surface remains, under an atmosphere remarkable, more especially in its central districts, for salubrity, serenity and brightness.

Brittany has a rainy, temperate climate with sea-breezes; Provence, a fierce dry heat, with almost perpetual sunshine and very strong and lasting continental winds. Brittany is the land of the appletree, Provence the land of the olive. The shores of Brittany are washed by the tides of the Atlantic, those of Provence by the waves of the tideless Mediterranean. It is like comparing Wales with Italy and the Welsh with the Italians.




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