French towns sweat in record May heat

The country has been in the grip of an extraordinary warm spell for this time of year. PHOTO: AFP

PARIS (AFP) - Several southern French towns sizzled in record high temperatures for May on Wednesday (May 18), while the month as a whole is on track to be the hottest since records began, the national weather service said.

Towns such as Albi, Toulouse and Montelimar in southern France set records of between 33.4 to 33.9 degrees Celsius on Wednesday, while areas on the west and northern coasts also logged unprecedented highs, Meteo-France said.

The country has been in the grip of an extraordinary warm spell for this time of year, with the last 37 days in a row featuring temperatures above the average.

It was "highly probable" that May 2022 would be the hottest since records began, surpassing the previous high set in May 2011, Meteo-France said.

"It's a warm period, long-lasting, wide-reaching and intense, that is exceptional for this time of year," meteorologist Matthieu Sorel from Meteo-France told AFP.

The warm spell did not meet the technical definition of a heatwave - when average nation-wide temperatures need to surpass 25.3 degrees Celsius for three consecutive days.

But it is causing major problems for farmers and warnings that it might affect France's wheat crop which enters a crucial growth stage in May.

Wheat prices are at record levels globally, mostly due to the war in Ukraine, which was a major exporter of the cereal before Russia's attack began in February.

All heatwaves today bear the unmistakable and measurable fingerprint of global warming, a new academic report from experts in the World Weather Attribution (WWA) consortium said last week.

Temperatures in India and Pakistan have hit records recently, while Spain has also issued warnings about extreme heat in some southern areas this week.

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