2013 Weather Roundup for Southwest France

Fortified church at Saint-Grat

Fortified church at Saint-Grat

Saint-Grat from a distance

Saint-Grat from a distance

The spell of mild weather that we enjoyed throughout most of December has continued into January. This doesn’t mean that the weather is good; simply that it’s not cold. On Saturday night, we had a howling gale, torrential rain and even thunder and lightning. I took the photos above during our last walking group promenade of the season before Christmas, when we started from Saint-Grat in Aveyron. It was a beautiful day – one of the few I can remember in 2013.

It’s hard to find anything positive to say about the weather in 2013, except for July and August, when we enjoyed a short summer, the first half of December and the odd decent spell at other times. Apart from that it was a grim, wet year.

The SF (Statistics Freak) has been slaving over a hot computer to bring you the figures. I’ll give you those for December first and then provide the verdict on how 2013 as a whole compares with previous years.

Weather assessment for December

A quick reminder of our subjective weather assessment: we assign each day a plus if it’s fine, a minus if it’s bad and a zero if it’s indifferent or we can’t decide. In December 2013, there were:

Pluses – 17
Zeros – 7
Minuses – 7

This made it the second best out of 16 Decembers. The chart below shows the percentage of plus days for this December and the preceding 15 (the line is the trend). It shows just how variable December can be.

Proportion of pluses in December over 16 years

Proportion of pluses in December over 16 years

Frost nights

We had 10 frost nights in December, which is around the average, although it varies considerably from year to year and depends on how clear the sky is at night. So far this winter, we have had 17 frost nights, which is not exceptional. We know from bitter experience, though, that this can change radically: February 2012 was bitterly cold with no less than 24 frost nights out of 29 (it was a Leap Year).

Rainfall

Our rainfall stats go back to August 2004. Following an extremely wet November, December’s rainfall was well below average, with 46.5 mm (79.7 mm average) and it rained on 8 days as opposed to the average of 12.

Rainfall for 2013

Rainfall for 2013

Verdict on 2013 as a whole

2013 was without a doubt the worst year we have had since we arrived in 1997. The total number of pluses was 146, compared with the average of 178. The average obviously conceals considerable variation between years (best = 2011 with 201 pluses; previous worst = 2007 and 2010 with 167 pluses each). But 2013 was a lot worse than the previous worst years. In fact, compared with the average, we were denied a whole month of pluses.

Our rainfall data, collected for nine years, is a bit more scientific. In 2013, a wet winter was followed by a wet spring, a wet early summer and a wet autumn. November was the second wettest month we have had. This all added up to a total of 1,065 mm, 26% above the average annual rainfall of 843.3 mm over nine years. Good for the aquifers but not for the soul.

Let’s see what the weather dictons (sayings) have to say about the weather to come.

Beaux jours de janvier trompent l’homme en février. Nice days in January deceive people in February (i.e. don’t be lulled into a false sense of security by good January weather).

I’ll leave you with some further photos taken on the walk at Saint-Grat mentioned above. Someone with an original artistic bent has collected all kinds of objects to construct hundreds of metal sculptures lining a path for more than a kilometre. The materials include forks, spades, pieces of ducting, metal buckets, tape measures, pipes of all descriptions etc. A novel method of recycling.

Weird figures near Saint-Grat

Weird figures near Saint-Grat

More weird figures near Saint-Grat

More weird figures near Saint-Grat

Snake with tape-measure tongue

Snake with tape-measure tongue

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About Vanessa Couchman

My husband and I moved to an 18th-century farmhouse in SW France in 1997. I am fascinated by French history, rural traditions and customs and enjoy seeking out the reality behind the myths. I run my own copywriting business and write short stories and the occasional novel in my spare time. My husband appears here as the SF, which stands for Statistics Freak, owing to his penchant for recording numbers about everything.
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14 Responses to 2013 Weather Roundup for Southwest France

  1. David Kennedy Ralph says:

    It is not that this weather is new it is that we are having a 1 in 50 years extreme weather event every year. Change has happened already. Enjoy the good weather while it lasts!

    • nessafrance says:

      Quite. There have always been episodes of extreme weather but never as close together as they are in recent years. It’s forecast to remain mild here up till the weekend but we might see a change then.

  2. fun sculptures. Hope it’s sunnier and warmer this year for the whole of Europe

    • nessafrance says:

      The sculptures are amazing. I can’t think how long it must have taken – there are hundreds. If it isn’t better weather here this year I shall emigrate!

  3. David Kennedy Ralph says:

    July and August are our main months to visit South West France. When we arrived early in July our neighbour said that winter had just ended. We had good weather when there.
    In early November we planted a lot of flowers and hedging in our garden and it is good (for us) to know that they got well watered.

    • nessafrance says:

      It looks as if you got the best of both worlds! Your plants have certainly been well watered so I don’t think you need to worry on that score.

  4. Evelyn says:

    I’m not sure which is worse….bitter cold, but clear or continuous wet and dismal, but mild temps! Oh well…at least your metal sculptures are cheery! Happy New Year!

    • nessafrance says:

      Lovely weather today – if breezy. I’d rather have mild than bitter cold and snow, since we always get snowed in. Bonne Année!

  5. Yup, lousy weather. Great sculptures. Wonder what 2014 has in store for us. Judging by what’s going on in UK and USA at the moment, we are being far too lucky. Perhaps the old dictum will prove true. We need to prepare ourselves.

    • nessafrance says:

      I don’t count any chickens until March is halfway through. I don’t think we’ve ever had snow later than that but last year it snowed at least 7 or 8 times and into March. Lay in plenty of wood!

  6. What a pretty place and I love the sculptures … fun:) Well, it looks as though it was a good thing that we were trapped in Tuscany for the summer after all! … although I’m longing to try a summer in the Aveyron, but looking at your chart I’ll definitely keep my umbrella and wellies handy.

    • nessafrance says:

      July and August were pretty good last year but that was it. It was a very short summer. It seems the weather is getting wetter – a couple of years ago it was a drought situation. Wellies definitely a good idea.

      • Well, it was also very short in Tuscany … the snow didn’t disappear here until the start of June and then it broke up in terrible storms, rain, hail and floods at the beginning of September; there seems to be a swathe of similar weather patterns right across this latitude. Climate change, which so many people have been resisting belief in, is definitely taking place and it shows with the present terrible weather in the US and the other extreme in Australia.

      • nessafrance says:

        Yes, it is worrying, isn’t it? Our mild weather is unusual, although not unknown, but the US cold spell is definitely extreme. Not to mention the wave of storm-force winds that have hit northern France and the UK.

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