The Climate of France
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Attempt this exercise comparing different climates in France.
Try the scatter game and dustbin game at the base of the page
What does the video opposite show about Perceptions of climate in Northern and Southern France?
The climate of France is very different. The climate varies according to latitude, altitude and distance from the sea. The reasons for France's varied climate are;
Latitude - the further you travel from the Equator (0 degrees latitude) the colder it gets generally. This is because the Earth is curved. Further from the equator the sun's rays have more atmosphere to pass through and a greater surface area of land to heat. It is therefore colder the further North and South of the Equator you go. The North of France is therefore colder than the Southern areas.
Altitude - because the Earth is heated from the surface outwards the higher you go in our atmosphere the colder it gets. Think about the ice crystals that form on the window of a plane when it flies at really high altitudes! For this reason mountainous areas are often colder than coastal areas. France has lots of mountain areas - the Alps, the Massive central and the Pyrenees. These areas all get very cold especially in winter, cold enough for glaciers to form and for there to be enough snow for skiing.
Distance from the sea - coastal areas tend to be warmer in winter and cooler in summer than areas further from the sea. Coastal areas are also wetter. France's West coast can be very wet and has a moderate or temperate climate, the interior of France tends to get very cold in winter and hot in Summer.
Winds - The West coast of France has winds that come from the South West bringing wet and warm weather with them. The South coast often gets a wind from the Alps called the Mistral, this wind brings very cold dry air to a region that is normally warm to hot.
These reasons are just as important to the UK as France, think about how much warmer it is in Southern England than in Newcastle!
It is for this reason that France has 5 distinct climate zones.
1. In the North and the West the climate is a Maritime one, in which it is mild in winter and warm to hot in the summer months, very much like the South of the UK.
2. In the highest areas, in the South West in the Pyrenees and in the East in the Alps it can be very cold all of the year round with lasting snow and ice caps. Next to this region at slightly lower altitudes it is quite cool all year round and cold in the winters, with a lot of precipitation. 3. In the lowest valleys in the Alps it can get hot in summer and stormy. This climate type can also be found around the mountain region of the Massive Central.
4. The fourth climate type is found in the North East of France around Alsace. Here there is a continental climate where it gets hot quickly in the summer and very cold in the winter.
5. The final climate type is found around the South East coastline, on the Mediterranean. This climate type is Mediterranean, which is very hot and dry in the summer months and has mild wet winters. This can change if the cold dry Mistral wind blows down from the Alps.
These climate zones can be seen on the map below;