Why are temperatures yo-yoing in France? And what about next week?

Erratic fluctuations can be source of concern for vineyards, farmers and home gardens

April temperatures in the last two years have been an anomaly

Weather patterns in France have been erratic so far in 2024 - and the pattern looks set to continue.

The end of January saw ‘June-like’ temperatures in parts of the south of France, and a number of record-breaking highs. 

February and March saw a mix of warm and cold, alongside serious floods and storms, one of which resulted in seven deaths in the south of France.

This month has already seen two heat spikes, with temperatures last weekend reaching up to 32C.

At the start of this week (April 15) however they fell suddenly, leading to morning frosts and snow at 500m above sea level. 

Read more: Frost warnings, storms and snow at 500m as temperatures in France drop

This is set to continue next week, with temperatures unlikely to reach averages usually seen in February.

The national average temperature – compiled by measuring thermometers in dozens of French towns and cities – is expected to reach a low point of 6.4C next Tuesday (April 23), around six degrees lower than the April average. 

What is causing the shifts? 

April is in general a month when temperatures can often be erratic. 

Over the last two years, temperatures have been above average in mainland France for all but two months – April 2022 and 2023. 

The dramatic shifts are caused mostly by wind patterns, with multiple different types of wind hitting France throughout the month. 

Last weekend’s heat was caused by a mass of warm air pushing across the Mediterranean from North Africa, whereas the forecasted weekend chill will come from bitter winds pushing south across the English Channel. 

By May, cooler winds from the North Pole are less powerful than their southern counterparts, which helps push the temperatures up – especially in the south. 

Read more: France’s state weather forecasters on strike over automation errors

Is it dangerous for your garden? 

In general, the erratic temperatures are expected in April with plants and agricultural produce used to the shifts. 

However, the increased heat at the beginning of the year can be the source of issues. 

If temperatures become more summer-like earlier in the year over an extended period of a few days, plants will be woken up and begin to bloom. 

They are obviously then much more susceptible to damage from April frosts and can be destroyed by them.

This is what happened in 2022 when warm March temperatures caused grapes and other fruits to wake up earlier than usual, leading to a loss of crops from April’s frosts.