Drought in Southwest France

Our front lawn

Our front lawn

 

We spent the first six months of this year complaining that we had too much rain. Now we’re complaining that we are having too little. It has barely rained for about six weeks and the weather has been dry, hot, sunny and windy. The picture above shows our lawn, which crackles when you walk across it. Even the weeds aren’t growing. I haven’t mown for well over a month.

We are fortunate to have a well 12 metres deep and a large citerne with a capacity of around 60 cubic metres. Even so, we have run the well dry by pumping up water for watering our plants. The level in the citerne is quite low, too – not least because we forgot to switch off the pump one day.

This is nothing compared with 2003, when it hardly rained between June and September and temperatures were in the upper thirties centigrade for three months. We always had running water, but certain villages had to get theirs from standpipes. Nonetheless, the vegetation is now showing obvious signs of distress, some of our trees are losing their leaves and the hillsides are looking decidedly autumnal.

As I drove through our village this afternoon, I had to stop for a convoy of fire engines which were heading for the causse, blue lights flashing and sirens blaring. I wondered if there was a brush fire, which are bound to flare up when the scrub is so dry.

Weather patterns

We have noticed a weather pattern emerging. The first six months of the year are often gloomy and damp, while the latter six are regularly dry and sunny. There was no rain at all in December last year, right up to New Year’s Eve.

I haven’t posted the weather stats for a couple of months, so I’m in trouble with the SF, the resident statistician. To mollify him, here they are. 

Weather in July and August 

We give each day a subjective ranking: plus, zero or minus, equating to good, indifferent or bad. In July, we had:

Plus 24
Zero 5
Minus 2

August was pretty similar, with:

Plus 24
Zero 6
Minus 1

We’ve been doing this for 19 years, so we now have quite a body of data about weather patterns over time. The charts show the proportion of pluses each July and August since 1998.

This July was one of the better ones: only six have been better and one the same. August was definitely in the upper league, with only three better and one the same.

Rainfall

Rainfall 2016 to date

Rainfall 2016 to date

In July, in keeping with the rest of the year to date, the rainfall was higher than average, with 63 mm as opposed to the 49.5 mm we would normally expect.

In August, however, the picture changed completely. We would normally expect 65.8 mm, since it’s usually a month with a lot of thunder storms. This year we had only 13 mm – no thunderstorms.

The total rainfall for the year so far is still above the average: 712.5 mm compared with the average of 590 mm. So we have a bit of margin. But if it goes on like this with unseasonably hot and dry weather, which is quite possible, we could have water supply problems. We have to remember, though, that before the wells were sunk, the inhabitants of this house had to walk more than a kilometre to a stream for water – and then lug it back.

French weather lore

Let’s see what French people said about a dry August in bygone days:

Août sans pluie fait maigrir la vache (An August without rain makes a skinny cow).

Judging by what the cows have to eat in the field behind us, this prophecy may well come to pass.

Meagre field behind our house

Meagre field behind our house

You might also like:

Dry Gardening
Summer Arrives at last in SW France
Watery Walk – La Vallée de la Bonnette
The Flood of the Century in SW France

Copyright © 2016 Life on La Lune, all rights reserved

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About nessafrance

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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16 Responses to Drought in Southwest France

  1. Pingback: 2016 Summer Weather in SW France: the Verdict | Life on La Lune

  2. Yes … and last night was so warm and clear, that I left the washing on the line. Very soggy now! But I’m happy for the garden 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Evelyn says:

    Dry down here in the river bottoms as well. There hasn’t even been any dew on the grass when I walk in the mornings…very unusual for my area.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Monique says:

    Greetings,

    I could not resist–Oh, I wish a well of 12 metres–mine in southern New Mexico is 60 metres and it is average–maybe on the shallow side. We had long drought– almost 10 years and it is not over!!
    Of course, we live in the desert and droughts are expected but this one has been devastating for the cattle industry.
    What does a lawn look like 🙂
    Monique

    Liked by 1 person

    • nessafrance says:

      I suppose one expects New Mexico to be dry, but I know western America has been experiencing an unprecedented drought. Our well was probably sunk in the 19th century, without the aid of today’s machinery. When I think that it is as deep as our barn is long, I admire their patience and effort. And how did they know the water was there? A sorcier, I suppose.

      Like

      • Monique says:

        Greetings,

        Only southern New Mexico is normally dry–same for Arizona and California but starting 150 miles from where I live, on to Colorado, it is very green. Land wise, New Mexico is about the same size as France–in population, it is another story!!.
        There is a saying in New Mexico, translated from Spanish: 4 months of hell (hot) and 8 months of Winter.
        Every Winter, where I live, we have at least one snow storm.
        Monique

        Like

  5. Fascinating reading, I love studying weather stats, maybe it is the English in me but for some reason I find them totally fascinating. Here on the coast in the Charente Maritime we have had just one day with rain since the end of June, we didn’t have a single drop in July! The lawn is yellow and crunchy, I run the mower around occasionally for the odd wispy weed but it takes me 15 minutes as opposed to an hour and a half. Our well is fed by a spring and we have watered the vegetables and tubs on the terrace and a couple of new shrubs we planted in the spring endlessly, everything else has had to make do and suffer. Everything looks somewhat sad, we have very little colour or flowers in the garden. It is awful for the growers and farmers, it is fantastic for the tourists and tourism industry. I remember back in June when our children were moaning like mad, “when will it be hot all the time, why does it rain so much!” The locals here now predict a harsh winter, but they did last winter too and it was the mildest on record! I think it will be a normal winter, but who knows!

    Liked by 1 person

    • nessafrance says:

      I gave up mowing about 6 weeks ago. Even the weeds have stopped growing, for the most part. Our well is also fed by a spring but it replenishes very slowly and we’ve been using about 150 litres a day. Our garden is also looking rather sad, with very little flowering. Hopefully the slight drizzle today might help a bit.

      Like

      • Our weeds have stopped growing too, but every now and then we get a wispy bit and as we have a gite I try to keep it looking it’s best, not easy when it’s brown! I dread to think how much water I use daily from the well watering, I am always terrified it will dry up, even though it is spring fed, but so far, fingers crossed, we’re ok!

        Liked by 1 person

      • nessafrance says:

        When you have a gite there must be a lot of pressure to keep the place looking immaculate. So I’m very glad we don’t have one – especially as our place looks much less than immaculate just now.

        Like

  6. Osyth says:

    I wish an August without rain made a skinny me! We are in drought in Massachusetts …. Beastly for the poor animals both sides of the pond (which sounds a little tactless in the circumstances!)

    Liked by 2 people

    • nessafrance says:

      I’m with you on that: it doesn’t seem to make much difference to my bulk. We put out shallow troughs of water for the birds and animals, otherwise I don’t know where they would drink. The troughs are well used.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Yup, our lawn is very crackly too! 🙂 I keep running around the gasping fruit trees that I planted early in the year, with buckets of water. The forecast keeps on saying “orages” then move them on for later … Tuesday is now the day they say; we’ll see

    Liked by 1 person

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