Is this week’s -31.4C amongst France’s coldest ever temperatures?

It was recorded in the 'Little Siberia of France'

Temperatures below -30°C have been recorded this week in Combe Noire
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The thermometer registered -31.4C in La Combe Noire (Doubs) last Saturday (January 13), the coldest temperature recorded in France over the weekend during another freezing episode.

La Combe Noire is nicknamed the “Little Siberia of France” with temperatures regularly dropping below -30C during France’s coldest meteorological phenomena.

The narrow valley is known for creating an ‘inverted temperature’, a phenomenon where ground air is colder than the atmosphere since it does not receive enough solar radiation at night.

Read more: Temperatures below seasonal norms: How long will cold last in France?

The Connexion spoke to Ilyes Ghouil, a meteorologist at the independent Météo Franc-Comtoise meteorological station, to ask if it holds the record for France’s coldest temperature ever and whether lower ones could have gone unnoticed.


Minus 31.4C is far from being the lowest temperature recorded. The same valley recorded -36.5C last year.

“I went to La Combe Noire two years ago, it is like a basin. Temperatures on the higher ground were around -14C when the bottom of the valley reached -30C,” said Mr Ghouil.

The record is held by Mouthe (Doubs), a village of 1,108 inhabitants on the Swiss border, registering -36.7C on January 13, 1968.

It is, however, debated by meteorologists for various reasons.

Météo France monopoly

Mouthe holds the record for two main reasons.

First, it is the lowest temperature recorded by a device owned by Météo France, the French national meteorological service.

Another, -41C, was recorded on January 17, 1985 but Mr Ghouil said it remains contested as it was recorded on a device owned by the local gendarmerie. Minus 42C was recorded in 2012 but this was by a private Swiss company.

The -36.7C has made snow and blazing winds an art de vivre and the mairie has generated a lot of tourism from its frozen lands, even if its record is disputed.

But it looks like Mouthe is not even the coldest of France’s villages, according to figures brought by Mr Ghouil.

Last Saturday, Mouthe’s temperature dipped to -18C when La Chaux, a village in Doubs, recorded -25,6C Saturday while Les Pontets, also nearby, recorded -23.9C and -24.4C on Saturday and Sunday respectively.

“Over the last years, these two villages have constantly shown lower temperatures,” said Mr Ghouil.

Minus 50C?

La Combe Noire is thought by some meteorologists to experience the coldest temperatures.

However Mouthe’s mayor, Daniel Perrin, told The Connexion last year that temperatures “cannot be recorded since no one lives there.” He added that several valleys surrounding Mouthe may have recorded similar temperatures.

Mr Ghouil believes that the La Chaux and Les Pontets villages could have reached temperatures as low as -40C to -42C on January 13, 1968, on January 17, 1985 or January 12, 1987, during three of France’s most severe winters.

“As for the bottom of La Combe Noire, we can envisage around -50°C,” he said. “I would love to set up a device there.”

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