Heatwaves 'will radically change the landscape of France’

The first half of 2020 was the hottest in France since records began, with temperatures averaging 1.8C higher than usual levels. If temperatures continue to rise, by 2050 France could be a very different country.

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Climate change in the form of heatwaves for France

Météo-France said that because of climate change, France can expect to face more frequent and intense heatwaves. “Heatwaves are among the climate extremes that are of the greatest concern in terms of the vulnerability of our societies and the expected changes in their frequency and intensity in the 21st century,” the national forecaster warned. “The frequency of events is expected to double by 2050.”

According to its model, temperatures in 30 years could be 1.2-1.5C higher even than the peak of the scorching second 2019 heatwave and could commonly reach above 44C in Paris. As well as regular temperatures above 40C, there could be rising oceans, snow only on the highest mountain peaks, regular forest fires, and widespread dengue fever, a dangerous virus.

Forest fires risk means some must clear garden vegetation

Change habits or expect a very different France by 2050

It is only a projection but prominent French climatologist Jean Jouzel says there is a real risk of limited access to water and France becoming a “Mediterranean-like country” by 2050. This year, France endured three waves of very high temperatures in June, July and August, with peaks of around 40C in some places, leading to several departments in the northern half of the country being placed on the highest-level red heatwave alert.

Just like last summer, departments across France have been introducing water restrictions of varying strictness – see box below. Temperatures this summer have not yet surpassed the record set last year, which was 46C, and the heatwave has not lasted as long as the one in 2003, but it is likely to still be in the top five most severe heatwaves that France has experienced in modern times.

Meanwhile, winemakers are rushing to get their harvest in early, to avoid 2020 wines being too heavy in alcohol after the growing season was accelerated by one of the warmest springs on record. Growers in Burgundy started the vendange almost a month ahead of the harvest in 2019, while those in the Bordeaux region are working 15 days ahead of the norm for the last five years.