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France’s ‘Little Siberia’ sees temperatures as low as of -33°C

Legend has it that the ‘cold hole’ in Combe Noire in the Jura freezes over in every month of the year

Temperatures of -33°C have been recorded this week in Combe Noire (Photo for illustration) Pic: Creative Travel Projects / Shutterstock

Combe Noire (Jura) was reported to be the coldest place in France yesterday (December 22) with a temperature of -33.4°C at 05:09.

Combe Noire is situated at an altitude of about 1,000m in an area of France sometimes referred to as “Little Siberia”, near to the commune of Mignovillard, between Pontarlier and Champgnole. 

In Mignovillard, the thermometer was only showing a temperature of -15°C yesterday (December 22), but further into the forest towards Combe Noire, the cold intensifies. 

“Legend has it that it freezes over in every month of the year,” said Bernard Menu, a safety officer at the Haute-Joux ski resort, which skiers continue to visit despite the temperature. 

The valley is just 80 metres lower than Minovillard, but during the descent the temperature drops by about 10°C. At 9:00 yesterday the temperature was -28.6°C.

Combe Noire is a steep-sided clearing which traps the freezing air within it in what is called “a cold hole,” the founder of local weather service Météo franc-comtoise, Ilyes Ghouil, told France 3

This is only possible when the spot in question is bordered by steep slopes on all sides, and does not contain much vegetation.

Previous tree-planting programmes have failed in Combe Noire due to the climate, and within the space there stand only a few wizened tree trunks.

“If you did not know you were in France, you could you are in an eastern or northern European country,” Mr Menu said. 

There exists a certain rivalry between Combe Noire and nearby Mouthe (Doubs), which are both in contention for the title of “cold capital of France.”

In 1985, Swiss weather station Local Sat recorded temperatures of -41°C in Mouthe, but Mr Ghouil believes that Combe Noire’s topography must have produced lower temperatures than that in the past.

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