French Climate, Brittany, Normandy, Garonne Basin, Alsace-Lorraine

The maps of temperature and precipitation bring out the main climatic features of France. Brittany and Normandy, forming western France, have the typical west European type of climate with mild winters averaging 45° F. (7° C.) at Brest in January and cool summers averaging 61° F. (16° C.) at Brest in July. They also have about 30 inches of rain which falls chiefly in autumn and winter. Strong winds, high cloudiness, and numerous rainy days complete the picture. Two of the three chief occupations of this region are controlled climatically; namely, the dairy industry based on the predominance of rain, and the cultivation of early vegetables based on the mildness of the winter and early spring.

A second type of climate is illustrated by Alsace-Lorraine on the eastern border of France. It shows the influence of a more continental location: the winters are much colder (Strasbourg, 32° in January), the summers are warmer (Strasbourg, 66° in July) and the precipitation of about 27 inches shows a decided summer maximum.

A third climatic type is that of the Mediterranean provinces as well as parts of the Garonne Basin and the coast of the Bay of Biscay. The winter temperatures are similar to those of western France, but sunshine is much more prevalent in spite of rather heavy winter precipitation; the summers are warm with a July temperature of 72° in Nice, and the rainfall shows a strong summer minimum. Nevertheless the fairly abundant rain in fall and spring and the absence of complete summer dryness allow continuous use of the land without the necessity of irrigation. Grapes, olives, and even citrus fruits in protected spots are one of the responses to the climate, and where the rainfall in summer is heavy enough corn appears beside the all-important wheat. The French Riviera, protected on the north by the Alps, owes much of its reputation to its climate, although the beautiful coastal scenery with its interplay between the blue of the sea, the many-colored coastal rocks, and the dark green of forests is a great asset. Biarritz, Nice, Monte Carlo, and other places attract many northern Europeans, lucky enough to escape the damp, raw winters of their homes. In summer, also, many visitors enjoy the warm sunny days so rare in the North Sea countries.

Between these three contrasting types of climate lies the most typical climate of France, a blending of all three. Paris is a true representative of the French climate. Average temperatures of 36° in winter and 65° in summer reflect both marine and continental conditions. A rainfall of around 24 inches, well distributed through the year, and an annual duration of sunshine amounting to about 1,750 hours in contrast with only 1,500 in Holland, make the Paris Basin almost ideal for agriculture and help to explain the dominating position of the farmer in the life of the French nation.

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