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Record dry year despite storms

2011 has been exceptionally warm and dry - in spite of killer storms across south of France

AS PARTS of the south of France again face orange weather alerts for heavy rainfalls and flooding Meteo France has said that this month has already been one of the warmest and driest on record.

An orange alert is in place for the Pyrenees-Orientales, Aude and Corsica with a yellow warning for Herault (and Finistere in Brittany). Forecasters say the eastern and coastal parts of the Roussillon departments will bear the brunt of lightning storms and heavy winds. The storms are not mobile so heavy localised rainfall over several hours is expected, with the weather due to clear by this evening.

The first 14 days of November have been the warmest ever recorded in France with the south-west being exceptionally warm and, after the dry and hot spring, 2011 is already being classed as one of the warmest in history.

Meteo France said temperatures were up 3.7C on normal, making November milder than the records of 1977 (+3.0C), 1994 (+2.9C), 1963 (+2.7C) and 1984 (+2.5C). The figures are even more striking when looking at north-south variations, with the south-west being +4.4C and the north-east being +2.7C.

Many towns in the west of France have never known such mild weather before, with Aurillac, Toulouse, Biarritz, Bordeaux, Nantes, Poitiers, Brest, Rennes being notably warmer. And towns such as La Rochelle, Bordeaux and Agen have rainfall records that are more normal for the likes of Seville in the south of Spain.

However, the recent storms in Var and Alpes-Maritimes - which claimed the lives of five people - have been at odds with the situation in the rest of France, which has seen rainfall down 40% on normal.

One ski resort - at Isola 2000 in the Mercantour - is looking at opening this weekend, but it and nearby Auron will not open properly until December 3. Val Thorens has delayed its traditional early-season opening until this weekend coming.

In the Pyrenees a temperature inversion means the valleys are warmer than the mountaintops and any snow that falls is melting quickly.

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