Unwintry Winter

Unusually tame squirrel
Unusually tame squirrel

I took this shot of a red squirrel four years ago, in February 2012, when we had two weeks of temperatures well below zero and snow as well. Our lane was like an ice-rink, it took 10 minutes to warm up and scrape the car in the morning and our woodpile diminished visibly.

On the coldest morning in 2012, it was about minus 15°C here. Our neighbours down the hill recorded minus 18°C. This year, the temperature has often been above plus 10°C in the morning – a divergence of more than 25°C. This demonstrates the extremes of temperature we can experience here in winter.

This is the third unseasonably mild winter in succession. The plants are coming up or in bud several weeks in advance of normal. I noticed yesterday that our viburnum was covered in honey bees (although I read that they do come out on warm days, so this may not be unusual). And we have hardly fed the birds at all this winter, since there are plenty of insects and other food. I would have expected the fly population to thrive – like last year when our windows were black with them. But fortunately, this isn’t so.

Weather assessment for January

Mild weather in winter generally means rain. December bucked the trend, being both mild and dry, but we ricocheted from that into a very damp January.

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 January we had:

Plus – 7
Zero – 10
Minus – 14

So it was a pretty dismal month, although not the worst January we’ve had. The graph shows the percentage of plus days each January for the past 18 years (the line is the trend – in this case resolutely downwards). There have been two the same and six worse.

Proportion of plus days in January over 18 years
Proportion of plus days in January over 18 years


We have kept rainfall stats since August 2004. January is often a wet month, but this January was well over the average of 95.3mm with 141mm. And it rained on 19 days instead of the 13 we would normally expect.

January rainfall compared to the average
January rainfall compared to the average

We keep telling ourselves we needed the rain after such a dry autumn, but it’s hard to be objective when our lane turns into a quagmire and we are longing for a ray of sunshine.

Frost nights

The mild weather is reflected in the number of frost nights: only five in January and 18 for the winter so far.

It could all change radically, but the forecast for the coming week is mild with (groan) more rain and our experience is that after mid-February very cold weather is unlikely. I’m crossing my fingers hard as I write this – well, metaphorically anyway.

Here’s a weather dicton (saying), of which French country people are so fond:

Février avec neige nous garantit un bel été (snow in February guarantees a good summer).

I think I’ll vote for no snow.

You might also like:

The Ups and Downs of Life in La France Profonde
Five Reasons Why Autumn is the Best Season
Surviving in France: 10 Top Tips

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  1. It has been an extraordinary winter with frequent lunchtimes in the garden. Not good for eradicating summer insects like ticks and fleas, which I fear will be abundant this year and apparently it’s all to do with an extreme El Nino and a generally warming world. The positive side is that we’ve saved a lot on heating 🙂 And I do enjoy seeing your weather charts.

    Liked by 1 person

    • We have also saved a lot on heating this winter. Not so many lunches outdoors since New Year, since we’ve had so much rain, but it’s certainly unseasonably warm.


  2. I’m watching the weather in France from the other side of the pond and can’t believe how little snow there is in Cantal. The world seems warmer this year than ever. Your SF would be able to shed some light on when this becomes a trend rather than a rogue blip …

    Liked by 1 person

    • We’ve had three mild winters in a row – but they succeeded a string of quite cold ones with a lot of snow, so I think it might be a while before one could call it a trend. Even so, you can’t dispute the overall temperature trends: last year was the warmest since records began.

      Liked by 1 person

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