The climate of France is generally temperate with three major variations: oceanic, continental, and Mediterranean. The climate of any particular region of the country is largely determined by the dominant of these three influences in the region, although elevation and other local conditions are also important. In general, the climate of France is well suited to agriculture.
The oceanic climate prevails throughout much of the country, especially in the north and west, where westerly winds from the Atlantic Ocean bring mild and moist conditions. These winds, charged with moisture, produce cool summers, mild winters, and year-round rainfall. The rain usually comes in the form of a slow, steady drizzle. Overcast skies are common, but snow and frost are rare. Paris, for example, receives 650 mm (26 in) of precipitation annually, with rain occurring an average of 188 days each year. The average daily temperature range in Paris is 1° to 6°C (34° to 40°F) in January and 13° to 24°C (55° to 75°F) in July. The oceanic climate fully dominates the west coast. Brest, in Brittany, has an average January temperature range of 4º to 9ºC (39° to 47°F) and an average July temperature range of 12º to 19ºC (54° to 67°F).
The continental climate has a pronounced influence in northeastern France. Winds and air masses coming from the east, over the great Eurasian landmass, bring little moisture and more extreme temperatures. In winter these air masses bring cold weather, and in summer they bring heat. The eastern city of Strasbourg, for example, has an average January temperature range of -2º to 3ºC (28º to 38ºF). In the course of an average winter the temperature in Strasbourg is below freezing for 80 days, and on at least 20 days snow is recorded. But the summers in Strasbourg, which average 13º to 25ºC (56º to 77ºF), are hot and often oppressive, with heavy precipitation during summer thundershowers.
The Mediterranean climate holds sway over regions of southern France, with the strongest influence felt in areas lying within 160 km (100 mi) of the sea. Winters are mild and moist, although much of the precipitation comes in short showers. Summers are hot and rainless. The Mediterranean city of Marseille, for instance, has an average daily temperature of 2° to 10°C (35° to 50°F) in January and 17° to 29°C (63° to 84°F) in July. Average precipitation in Marseille is 550 mm (22 in) annually, with rain occurring an average of 95 days a year. Occasionally, a cold, dry wind, called a mistral, blows down from the north, through the narrow Rhône-Saône trench valley, and out onto the Languedoc Plain. The mistral is strongest and most frequent in the winter and spring and can temporarily bring chilly temperatures to the Mediterranean shore.
For centuries the French devoted few resources to the protection and conservation of the environment. Like most of the world’s peoples, they have focused mainly on economic development of national lands and waters. A conservation movement arose in France in the 19th century, as environmental problems associated with industrialization accumulated. However, the movement did not gain broader popular support until the end of World War II (1939-1945). Rapid industrial expansion, urbanization, and the proliferation of automobiles further degraded the environment, leaving the nation’s air and water supplies severely polluted, and its remaining forests and wild animals threatened.
Since the early 1960s, France has undertaken a variety of initiatives to conserve and protect its environment. A cornerstone of this effort was the creation of a system of parks and reserves. Today, about 10 percent of the French national territory enjoys some type of protected status. This includes six national parks, several dozen regional nature parks, and more than 100 smaller nature reserves. In addition, numerous measures are in place to reduce air pollution, water pollution, and soil erosion. © "France" © Emmanuel Buchot and Encarta
Photos of European countries to visit
Photos of Asian countries to visit
Photos of America