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Storms set to end record-breaking dry spell in northern France

Paris, Lille and Nantes have not seen any rain for more than three weeks - the longest dry spell for this time of year since 1949

The rainfall is unlikely to reverse drought conditions in the driest regions of France Pic: Matt Benzero / Shutterstock

A drastic shift in weather is set to end a late spring drought in northern France, where some cities have not seen rain for more than 21 days. 

The lack of rainfall – a record for this time of year since 1949 – will continue up until the end of this week before storms race in.

The conditions are being caused by a British anticyclone that is preventing rainfall with its wind patterns. 

Temperatures this week are set to be high across France, with the mercury potentially reaching 33C in some parts of the west.

The lack of rain, followed by the intense heat, has caused worry for farmers in the regions affected.

Conditions worry farmers

Rain last fell in some French areas in mid-May, which have been completely dry since May 16.

Paris, Lille, and Nantes – locations spanning hundreds of kilometres across the northern half of the country – are the three biggest cities facing the conditions. 

The average rainfall in Paris between May 16 and June 5 is normally around 43mm, but not a single drop has fallen during those dates in 2023. 

In comparison, the south (in particular the south-east) of the country has seen only slightly lower than average rainfall, thanks to the stormy conditions bringing infrequent but intense rain.

The conditions in the north have done nothing to alleviate concerns over a devastating dry summer. 

The lack of rain has caused the ground to harden, making it more difficult for crops to grow in the soil. 

On top of this, above-ground fruits are struggling; one farmer close to Paris told FranceInfo his raspberries had shrivelled before reaching their normal size due to the weather. 

“If it starts to affect the rest of my crops, (...) I'm clearly going to have a problem with my business,” he said. 

Groundwater levels are low across much of France after the lack of winter rainfall and the lingering effects of last year’s summer droughts, and the most recent dry spell will only further worry authorities across France.

The returning rain will not compensate much for the dry period, however, and in some areas in the far north only a couple of mm of rainfall is expected to fall. 

Read more: What impact will May rain have on France’s water deficit?

High temperatures to end week 

At the same time, however, temperatures are rising across France, with a mini ‘heatwave’ expected to round out the week. 

In an uncommon twist, temperatures close to the Mediterranean will be lowest in France (24 - 27c), whereas temperatures in the north will be between 27 - 30c. 

In some parts of western France, temperatures could reach up to 33c between Wednesday and Friday. 

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