[Update December 12 at 15:30 - Allier, Loire and Rhône have now been placed under an orange weather alert for snow and black ice. There are now 48 departments under yellow warnings for cold and/or snow.]
The beginning of December has been marked by lower-than-average temperatures, in a trend that is set to continue this week, heightening the chance that the electricity network could come under strain and make scheduled power cuts necessary.
Some snow fell over Poitou-Charentes, Pays de la Loire and the northwestern coastline yesterday (December 11), with temperatures of -10C detected in Creuse, but a more significant episode is expected on Tuesday and Wednesday (December 13-14).
Today (December 12), the southern half of France is set to see heavy rainfall, which could freeze and create icy conditions this evening, especially around the Massif Central.
Temperatures approaching freezing tonight may result in snow over Nantes, Gap, Vichy, Lyon and Montélimar.
‘Grand froid’ alerts issued
Some 44 departments in northern, northwestern, central and southeastern France are under yellow alerts for snow and black ice and/or ‘grand froid’ cold today. Further details on the departments affected can be found on the Météo France website.
A ‘grand froid’ alert is issued when an episode of cold weather is particularly persistent, intense and widespread. Temperatures sink below seasonal averages and, just like a heatwave, the resulting weather poses a danger to public health.
From tomorrow, Storm Efrain is set to arrive in France from the south, bringing mild, wet air in its wake. This will meet the cold air which has been lingering over France for the past few days.
“The conflict between the two air masses with very different characteristics should bring snow over low ground, without doubt with a bit more than over recent days,” meteorologist Yann Amice told Actu.fr.
“Even if it is difficult to know exactly which areas will be affected, we can reasonably expect – according to weather modelling – that a few centimetres of snow could whiten the ground between Tuesday and Wednesday, on a line between the north of Nantes and Paris.”
It is likely that everywhere north of this line will see snow on Tuesday, Wednesday and potentially Thursday. Snow is also expected at low altitudes in Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes on Tuesday.
This episode of cold weather has seen average temperatures settle around 1C across the country, around 5C below normal.
This type of weather has become increasingly rare over the last decade, when the number of December days where the temperature has been at least five degrees below seasonal averages has totalled three: December 31, 2016, December 29, 2014 and December 12, 2012.
Encore sous l'influence de ce petite régime de #NAO-— Amice (@Yann_amice) December 11, 2022
avec une belle cellule de hautes pressions sur le #Groenland et des basses pressions sur l'atlantique au niveau des #Acores avec la tempete #Efrain. Joli conflit en perspective avec #neige potentiel à suivre. pic.twitter.com/uyCRNPIU6S
Risk of power cuts
This week's cold temperatures could result in increased strain on the electricity network, which might mean that providers need to carry out scheduled two-hour-long power cuts to reduce the chance of uncontrolled blackouts occurring.
Until now, average energy usage has been 10% lower than average across France, thanks to the efforts of individuals and businesses. The authorities are now encouraging people to continue cutting their consumption where possible, so as to curb the potential weather-related usage spikes.
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