Snow, floods make for miserable winter in France
Sun 11 Feb 2018
France's weather has been bleaker, warmer, wetter and considerably snowier than usual this winter. Météo France reported† that the national average temperature for January was over 3° above average, the highest on record for the month, while for all except the far south and west of the country there were record, or close-to-record, low amounts of sunshine.
A procession of active fronts and storms moving across France has kept cloud and rainfall amounts high, but while that's brought flooding to lower areas, in the mountains it has meant very deep snow, though as this Météo France post explained† it's not quite that simple. Météo France also gave a good summary† of the meteorology behind the unusual winter.
While at lower levels, including on the Seine and in Paris, there has been widespread flooding, the rain that brought the flooding has fallen as snow higher up. In most of France's mountain areas, the snow now extends down to 400-900m while above 1,500m snow depths have been measured between 1.5 and 4.3m. However, different weather patterns in each area have resulted in considerable variations, as Météo France reported† on 16 February. Some depths have been close to the greatest on record. Heavy snow - and avalanche - problems continued, like this on 20 February in the Pyrénées† [La Dépêche]. You'll find some spectacular photos of the Pyrénées currently on the Météo Pyrénées Twitter site†.
On 5-7 February, heavy lowland snow fell in an area from the Loire Valley through Paris to the Aisne, NE of the capital as shown on Météo France radar†. Parisians would have been well prepared, having seen Météo France warnings like this†, carried on Actu.fr. Fifteen centimetres of snow lay on the ground at Orly Airport at 06.00 on 7 February, a depth only reached every 20 to 25 years, while 12cm was measured near central Paris at Montsouris, about a 1 in 10 year occurrence. Snow depths reportedly reached 20cm in some suburbs, and Charles de Gaulle Airport looked like this. [SWE]
Traffic was chaotic around and especially to the south of the city, with a record 740km of traffic jams on the night of 6 February. About 2,000 people were stranded in deep snow on the N118 south of Paris and had to be rescued. On the A1 Autoroute to the north, France's busiest autoroute, a 30km line of trucks were immobilised in the two left lanes heading towards Paris. Some rail and tram lines shut down and almost all bus services stopped, resulting in Montparnasse and Austerlitz railway stations and 46 other shelters being opened to stranded people. [Guardian, SWE, ABC News, Reuters]
Frigid conditions set in after the snow. Overnight 7/8 February, Orgerus, 50km W of Paris, recorded a minimum temperature of -13.7° while many other centres fell below -10°. The following night was even colder, the coldest in France so far this winter, with Paris recording -4°. Then snow once again moved in on 9 February with between 3 and 7cm new snow across the central northern half of France, including Paris.
It took until 11 February to clear streets of snow and ice, and restore normality to Paris. During the snow, the Eiffel Tower was closed, many Parisians enjoyed skiing the streets and photographers found a new beauty in a quiet city. [Jaakko Nuutinen]
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