Southwest France Weather January 2014

A long time since we saw a sky like this. Chateau at Najac

A long time since we saw a sky like this. Chateau at Najac

…plus c’est la même chose. As people in northern and western France prepare to batten down the hatches yet again tonight, it’s my sombre duty to bring you the weather stats for January. And independent corroboration from Météo France that it was indeed a rotten month by most measures – just in case you hadn’t noticed.

France as a whole

This is what Météo France reports.

The good news (or maybe not): with 1936 and 1988, January 2014 was the warmest January in France since 1900. The temperature averaged out across France was 2.7° C higher than normal.

The bad news: it was wet. On average throughout France rainfall was 40% higher than normal. In parts of the southeast, they had three times as much rain as in a normal January. As for sunshine hours, they were correspondingly low, especially in the north and – guess where – the southwest. Down here, we had 30-40% less than the average sunshine and don’t forget January is by nature pretty murky.

Our figures for SW France

My husband, the SF (Statistics Freak; so-called because of his obsession for recording everything) has kept stats about the weather down here for nearly 16 years.

Our first measure is a 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 January we had:

Pluses – 4
Zeros – 12
Minuses – 15

The chart shows the percentage of plus days each January for the past 16 years (the line is the trend). Only one January was worse than this one – January last year.

Proportion of pluses January 2014

Proportion of pluses January 2014

 Rainfall

Our rainfall stats go back to August 2004. This January 138.5 mm of rain fell compared to the average of 91.9 mm. It rained on 19 days as opposed to the 12 we would normally expect. Only one previous January has come close – 2009 with 137 mm. (Thanks to the SF who noticed I wrote 237 mm in a previous version. I need a proof reader.) 

Rainfall: actual vs average 2014 to date

Rainfall: actual vs average 2014 to date

Lakes have appeared in the fields around here, complete with herons standing sentinel in the shallows. The mud is indescribable. In fact, the car got stuck in the mire this morning when I pulled off the road to let a grain lorry past that wasn’t taking prisoners: the driver had to come back and help us off.

Frost nights

Not surprisingly we had only two, which is unusually low. Although February has started out mild and looks likely to remain so for the next seven days, it is a notoriously cold month so that figure could rise.

The verdict

I can’t think of anything to say that is publishable. In the market this morning, nobody could talk about anything but the weather. Yesterday, on a routine visit to the doctor, when I complained about it he started questioning me about what I do to keep active in winter. He even suggested we take a little trip down to Spain (now there’s an idea). Perhaps he’s had a lot of people in for depression.

It’s difficult to get out and take exercise when it’s like this. Walking is unpleasant in the rain and it’s horribly squelchy underfoot. So we haven’t been anywhere or done anything. That trip to Barcelona is looking increasingly appealing. I’ll just go and look up their weather…

Copyright © 2014 Life on La Lune, all rights reserved

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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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18 Responses to Southwest France Weather January 2014

  1. Joe says:

    17-19 degrees C on Valentine’s day in SW France. Weird weather indeed. Methinks something is up, and it’s not just the weather!

    • nessafrance says:

      It has been unusually mild this year. Normally, Feb is the coldest month. Mind you, in our early years here in the late 90s, we can remember wearing shorts on a couple of occasions in Feb, so it’s perhaps not that unlikely. But, overall, the weather is doing strange things.

  2. Simon says:

    Was it last winter or one before, cant remember. Probably one before. Keep warm everyone.

    • nessafrance says:

      I think it probably was winter 2012 that you were referring to. That’s when most of February was terribly cold. Thank goodness that doesn’t happen very often. When we first moved here in 1997, we had a succession of mild winters. In the past few years that changed and we had a lot of snow and some arctic temperatures. This year, it’s gone back the other way again. The price we pay is the rain…

      • Simon says:

        Yes its certainly gone the other way and yes the heating bill will be a lot lower than previous years. Spring flowers are out here already, whats going on in SW France ?

      • nessafrance says:

        Our daffodils are on the point of flowering and there are buds on the trees. I just hope we won’t get a late cold snap that affects them. However, our elderly neighbour says that after about 20th Feb that’s unlikely. Fingers crossed.

  3. Simon says:

    We are just south of Bergerac and this winter although wet is nothing compared to last years. We had -18 for about a month, electricity outages for days, that was grim. If it stays like this until spring I will be very pleased although I have probably spoken too soon. I will take rain over snow any day.

    • nessafrance says:

      I do agree with you that rain is preferable to snow. But this winter has really been miserable, as the France Meteo report shows. Last year (2013) it snowed here at least 8 times and we were regularly snowed in, which is a real pain. It was the previous year (2012) when at least half of Feb was well below zero. We had -15 here and neighbours down the hill had -18, like you. I don’t really know which is worse. All I know is that we need sunshine and recent winters, whether snowy or rainy, have been decidedly lacking in it. This winter at least we are saving on the heating.

  4. amelie88 says:

    Rather rain than snow I say (you don’t have to shovel rain!). It snowed here on Monday, again this morning/ice rain which turned everything into slush (my father and sister did not go to work, most of the roads had not been cleared but I luckily had an easy commute weirdly enough) and we are supposed to get more snow next weekend. And we’ve already had two major snowstorms, not to mention the “polar vortex.”

    The South of France sounds mighty balmy to me at this time of year!

    • nessafrance says:

      If it had been a few degrees cooler all the rain we’ve have would have been snow, so I guess we have been luckier than you in that regard. It’s terribly gloomy, though, so it might be warmer and easier to get about but the lack of sunshine is not good for the soul. I guess you haven’t been having much sunshine, either…

  5. Evelyn says:

    Even when it hasn’t been raining, the gray skies and sodden landscape has been very depressing. I haven’t been motivated to do much of anything, even inside! Glad for a couple of snatches of blue skies yesterday and Monday; I got out a took a few photos.

    • nessafrance says:

      The sun is a rare commodity just now. It’s very discouraging. You just don’t feel like getting out and doing anything. And walking anywhere is like an assault course. But it’s not cold. And we’re not snowed in, unlike last year.

  6. lizgyooll says:

    Well, climate change has come in with a vengeance, especially when you see what’s happened in Britain. I can hardly believe that Mulcheney in Somerset has been under deep flood water for over a month.

    In Tuscany, we have the same weather as you, but quite a bit warmer with slathering mud everywhere, collapsed roads and landslips. An old farmer I was talking to here, said the important thing is to find a way to collect the water, or slow it down to filter deep into the soil as drought is the worse thing to face. Leaving for the Aveyron next week, so I’m hoping that things will have improved by then! :)

    • nessafrance says:

      True, but I read a social history of England in the 14th century recently and see that floods like this were not uncommon during the first half of the century, causing crop failures and terrible famines. Also that the climate changed over that century – although in reverse, so it was 1 degree cooler at the end. They were no longer able to grow vines where once they had thrived. I’m not denying climate change owing to human activity – just saying that what we see now has been experienced before.

      I hope the weather improves here, although judging by the forecast it’s going to remain mild and damp.

  7. The wind here (south western tip of the Finistère) last night was incredible. And someone up there was chucking skip-loads of water down on my house. Thanks Heavens for the SF, he gives us perspective, even if a glum one! Maybe when we are snowed in end Feb/March, we shall look back on the wind and rain with nostalgic affection?

    • nessafrance says:

      I hope your house survived the onslaught without any damage. It’s not over yet, alas, judging by this evening’s Méteo on the TV. No sign of snow yet – but who knows?

      • It’s been quite awful all day, hail and gales. My house is quite squat, and being on the outskirts of Quimper, is crouched behind a taller house which protects it from the prevailing wind. Lost part of the roof of my outhouse this afternoon, though. More tomorrow evening and night. Will it never end?

      • nessafrance says:

        Sorry to hear about the damage to your outhouse. At least your main house is okay. It must change sometime.

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