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Early heatwave up to 40C set to arrive in France next week

Record-breaking temperatures are predicted across the country, especially in the south

A thermometer in the sun approaching 40C

Record breaking temperatures for the month of June are predicted Pic: shutterstock.com / Marion Weyo

[Article updated June 13 at 13:15]

France is set to experience an early heatwave from this week, with the temperatures predicted normally only seen at the height of summer. 

Forecasters have said that high temperatures are expected to arrive from Thursday, June 16 to Saturday, June 19 across much of the country. 

Some regions are at higher risk of heatwave ('canicule') temperatures, especially in the southwest and centre of the country, with maximums of 34-38C expected. It could reach as high as 40C in the Aquitaine region and the Mediterranean.

This is likely to break records for June, with temperatures of 35-40C expected between Bordeaux, Nantes, Toulouse, Carcassonne, and Albi.

Temperatures are expected to remain high at night, and are unlikely to descend below 20C, especially in cities. 

Regions north of the Seine and near the Channel will be less affected because of a north-easterly breeze which will keep the air feeling slightly cooler. 

The length and intensity of the heatwave are still yet to be determined, due to the possibility of a cold front rising from Portugal, which would dampen down temperatures from next Saturday. However, this could cause violent storms.

Yet, if the cold front remains in Portugal, it could act as a 'heat pump' and intensify the heatwave further, forecasters have said

Portugal itself has recorded the hottest May since 1931, and almost the entire county is suffering from severe drought.

June heatwaves

The episode could be one of the earliest heatwaves in France, as they usually arrive later in the summer. 

Since the start of the 2000s, there has been an increase in the frequency of early heatwaves, especially in the year 2003. More recently, the heatwave of June 18-22, 2017 saw temperatures of 37C hit Paris. 

However, the heatwave of June-July 2019 was the most intense ever observed, with temperatures of 41C in the centre of the country, and up to 45C in the Languedoc region. 

What qualifies as a heatwave in France? 

In France, meteorologists will declare a canicule heatwave if temperatures exceed expected levels for the time of year during the day and stay high at night for a period of at least three consecutive days or more. 

The temperature thresholds depend on the region. Paris would be classed as being in the midst of a canicule if the temperature is higher than 31C during the day and 21C at night for more than three days, but in Marseille this label would only be applied for highs of 36C and 24C. 

Another reason for the lack of fixed canicule temperatures is that certain meteorological conditions can make the air feel hotter and more humid than it actually is, increasing the effect on the general public. 

Meteorologists will define this particular episode as a canicule if temperatures remain at or above 35C in the day and 20C at night for three days in a row. 

Drought and forest fire fears

This week's weather will further exacerbate drought concerns across France. As of today (Monday, June 13), water restrictions are already in place in areas of 35 different departments, compared to 22 10 days ago.

Fire and rescue services are also preparing themselves for an increased risk of forest fires, as they predict "a difficult summer," said Jérôme Bonnafoux, spokesperson for Hérault's firefighters. He stated that around 15 fires are expected to begin per day in the department. 

Read more: Forest fire risk in France: ‘Difficult’ summer predicted ahead

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