The weather in Provence

About Provence - France's Mediterranean heartland

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Provence Weather 

About Provence - France's Mediterranean heartland

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Climate and weather in Provence and the French Riviera

The climate of Provence

It is often said that the climate of Provence is "typically Mediterranean". But this is to oversimplify the complexity of a climate that is very particular, and marked by two distinct parameters: firstly its position with regard to the Alps and to the Mediterranean; secondly the influence of the Rhone valley.

Warm days blue skies
The classic image of Provence weather - blue skies warm days
Considering that it is one of the most northerly points on the Mediterranean coast, Provence has a particularly favoured climate. Thanks to the mountains behind them, the coastal areas from the Var to the Italian border - the French Riviera - are singularly well protected from weather fronts coming down from the north, and for this reason benefit from a climate that in parts is more similar to that of the Andalucian coast than that of other closer Mediterranean areas. For the same reasons, they are also dry.
  In the Alpes Maritimes department, at the eastern end of the French Riviera , where high mountains come right down to the coast, the climate on the coastal strip (in places just a few hundred yards wide!) is particularly mild, and the town of Menton, on the Italian border, has the mildest winters of any place in France. In this part of France, where frosts are virtually unheard of, plants such as bougainvillia and aloe vera can grow profusely in sheltered outdoor locations.

  Yet the most significant aspect of the climate of this part of France is its dryness. Compared to other parts of France at similar altitudes or latitudes, this south-eastern corner of France has far less rainfall. The southern end of the Alps have less rainfall than areas further north or east.
   The dryness of the climate is most particularly noticeable in the department of the Bouches du Rhone, the area around Marseilles, Aix en Provence and Avignon. this is the driest region in France, and a region that is considerably drier than most other parts of the north Mediterranean coast. This dryness is particularly due to the effect of the Mistral wind, which can blow down the Rhone valley for  weeks on end. It is particularly strong when a ridge of high pressure stands over western Europe, and a depression is over central Europe. the northerly winds between these two weather systems are pushed south as they reach the western edge of the Alps, and surge down the Rhone valley towards Provence. They bring generally clear skies, but not warm temperatures. A strong winter Mistral, coming over from eastern Europe, can send temperatures plummeting in the lower Rhone valley, and even on the coast, at Marseilles, sub-zero termperatures are possible. In Avignon, winter temperatures frequently hover at or just above zero, and though snow is not common, a cold  winter Mistral can  send temperatures down to several degrees below freezing.
   The lines of tall cypress trees, emblems of Provence and notably the lower Rhone valley, are there for a purpose - to protect growing plants from the force of the cold (or sometimes in summer, hot) Mistral wind.

   The Provençal Alps are the sunniest part of the range, and Briançon, at an altitude of 1350 metres, is reputed to be one of the sunniest towns in France, with over 300 sunny days per year.

Temperature tables:

Location Average daily max Jan. Average daily max Aug. Average daily max Nov.
Avignon 28° 13.5
Marseille 10.8 28.8 14.9
Nice 13° 28° 16°
For comparison
(London) 22° 10°

Map of Provence region
Provence region , covering the French Riviera, the Provence Alps, historic Provence and the area historically linked to Provence
Useful links
Gites and villas in Provence
Regional tourist office
Bed and breakfast in Provence
Rural camping in the south of France
Arles Amphitheatre
Roman Provence - the Arles arena

More useful links
Aix en Provence tourist office

Haute Provence
Bougainvillia growing on a house by the sea near Nice.Provence roofs
Provençal roofs

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Guide to the Auvergne
Guide to Languedoc-Roussillon
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