Monthly Météo: Weather in Southwest France February 2012

How February started…

Just in case you hadn’t noticed, this February was one of the coldest since the 1950s. Down here, it was beaten only by 1986, when the temperature got as low as minus 27C in our district. The coldest temperature we recorded this year was minus 13C but our neighbours down the hill in a frost pocket had minus 17C one morning. For a period of two weeks, the temperature rarely got above zero, even during the day.

Every month I post an update on how the weather has been in our corner of southwest France, based on the statistics we have kept since 1998. To see the other weather posts, please click on ‘Weather’ under the Topics tab in the right-hand sidebar.

Weather assessment for February

A quick reminder of our subjective weather assessment: we assign each day a plus if it’s fine, a minus if it’s bad and a zero if it’s indifferent or we can’t decide. In February, there were:

Pluses – 11
Zeros – 12
Minuses – 6

Although it was exceptionally cold, we had a lot of sunshine. Mind you, we had to stay in and look out at it – there was no question of going outside for more than a few seconds. Even our walking group had to cancel one of its outings. It’s amazing how it can change, though. The last week of February was radiant and we worked outside in shirtsleeves and had lunch outside several days running. 

The graph shows the percentage of plus days each February for the past 14 years (the line is the trend). There have been eight worse and five better Februaries, although none has been so cold.


Our rainfall stats go back to August 2004. February is traditionally a dry month here. Nonetheless, we had only 10.5 mm of rain – almost nothing – against the average of 47.9 mm. It rained on 5 days compared with the average 9.

The deficit is becoming very marked. Since last (wet) July the only month when rainfall has exceeded the average is December. It’s early days, but so far this year we have had less than 50% of normal rainfall and there’s none in sight for at least a week.   

Frost nights

Was there a night without frost? Apparently, we had five nights without any, making 24 nights with subzero temperatures.

Here’s a dicton (saying) about the month that’s just gone :

Février, le plus court des mois, est de tous le pire à la fois – February is the shortest month and the worst of the lot.

And another about March:

En mars, quand le merle a sifflé, l’hiver s’en est allé – In March, when the thrush has sung, the winter has gone.

I’ve heard a thrush singing already, so let’s hope they’re right.

To finish, a photo of a bee on a hazel catkin in our garden last week. I was standing underneath the tree and heard the bees buzzing at the top. A lovely sight, which cheered me up no end.

…how February finished

Copyright © 2012 Life on La Lune, all rights reserved


  1. As you know I’m a big fan of the SF-behind every great woman etc. How do you split the work around the weather information, I’d be interested to know. Any chance of a guest slot by the SF in future?


    • I’ll see if the SF can be persuaded to write a guest post. However, I don’t want it going to his head. As regards the work, there really isn’t that much. It involves simply deciding between us whether a day deserves a +, – or 0, reading the rain gauge and determining if there’s been an overnight frost. None of it is greatly scientific. The SF keeps all the stats on a huge Excel spreadsheet and has graphs of all sorts. I just pick out a few to put in the monthly post. The main interest lies in it being an historical record going back 14 years now.


  2. Thank you for a most informative and interesting report. My wife and I have been staying at our house 40km inland from La Rochelle since the end of February and never expected the weather to have been so cold. We’ll come prepared next year!!!! Let’s hope for a few warm days now before we go back to the UK in early April.


    • Thanks very much for your comment. I publish a retrospective weather report every month based on the stats we’ve been keeping for 14 years. It is, of course, very localised to our area of NE Tarn-et-Garonne and I’ve heard that the climate where you are is more temperate. However, everywhere was freezing cold in Feb! It’s going to be dry and sunny for at least the next week, I understand, so I hope your wish will be granted. Nobody tells you how cold it can be in France before you buy…


      • Just realised I said we came at the and of Feb – actually it was the end of January, so we really did experience the worst of the cold, not helped by a faulty central heating system! I believe there were some lows below -10c even in Charente-Maritime and nearby Deux-Devres.


        • Don’t worry – I didn’t notice! I think you got off more lightly than we did. But then we are in the foothills of the Massif Central here, 1,000 above sea level with a more continental climate. Thankfully, these conditions don’t occur more than once every 10-15 years. That’s more than enough for me.


  3. I love your weather stats! I’m kind of a weather fanatic myself. I begin every journal entry with a weather report for the morning. The catkins are lovely!


    • Good idea to record the weather as you do. My husband has a very complicated spreadsheet on which he records all these things. Some of them, like rainfall, are more scientific than others. Our grading system is clearly subjective but there are some patterns emerging after all these years.


  4. I really love your weather reports. I wish I’d done statistics all these years, one’s memory is notably selective where weather is concerned. I know that one winter (Feb or March probably) near Orléans the temperature went down to -21°C, but it must have been before 1986, the kids were too small. They nearly froze walking the 500m up to school. It’s strange isn’t it that every month for the last year seems to have been the coldest, warmest, wettest in living memory… in the Finistère, on the outskirts of Quimper, so warmer than out in the countryside, it froze 6 nights in February, but rained heavily several times (when you were having snow I expect). I was in England for the last week, but I think they had even better weather here than we had across the Channel.


    • I agree, one remembers only the extremes. However, the past decade does seem to have brought extremes both of temperature and of weather activity. No doubt it’s often localised. Orléans often seems to be one of the coldest places. Thanks to my husband’s love of statistics, we’ve build up quite a body of information. I don’t pretend that all of it is especially scientific, though.


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