A few facts about the Lot and Quercy climate.
Peter Mayle described Provence as a cold country with a high rate of sunshine and a place where the summers are consistently hot. Both of these comments are also said to be true elsewhere in the South of France – the Lot and Quercy region, but let’s look at some actual figures.
We have compared meteorological data from weather stations in the U.K. and the Lot and Quercy to try to quantify the difference in the climate – particularly the temperature. For the U.K. we have taken data from Eastbourne, which, being on the South Coast of England, tends to have a relatively mild climate – the warmth of the English Channel (La Manche!) mitigating the effects of the coldest winter weather. For the Lot and Quercy, the data comes from the weather station at Gourdon, one of the higher points in the Lot and close to the Massif Centrale. Gourdon is therefore subjected to colder winter temperatures than would be experienced elsewhere in the region. It is notable that villages situated in the river valleys seem to experience something of a microclimate – no doubt influenced by the rivers themselves.
This graph shows average maximum and minimum temperatures over the last thirty years.
As you would expect, this shows that the summer temperatures in the South of France are significantly higher that the U.K. More surprisingly it also shows that the minimum temperatures are consistently slightly colder. What is most striking from the figures is that the Lot and Quercy has a much greater temperature range than the U.K. On an average July day, the minimum temperatures in Gourdon and Eastbourne are about the same, but the Lot and Quercy heats up to a maximum temperature that is 7 degrees higher.
It’s not hard to find the reason for this – sunshine! When the sun is out, the air heats up quickly, allowing the possibility of eating outside at times of year when the U.K. is still experiencing frosts. This is confirmed by the fact that the maximum temperatures in the Lot and Quercy exceed those in the U.K. for at least 9 months of the year, despite the minimum temperatures being colder.
How cold does it get? Data from the weather station in Montauban in the Tarn et Garonne shows 37 days of freezing on average per annum with only 4 days having a temperature lower than -5 degrees Celsius. There are, of course, exceptions and there have been some extremely cold winters. In1956, 1963, 1967, 1985, and 1987 the temperatures fell well below minus 10 degrees, the record low of minus 20 degrees being achieved in 1985 at Montauban. These cold spells tend to be very dry and falls of snow are rare.
The figures show that Mayle’s observations do have a basis in fact and they also explain why, in the South of France, the locals expect every day to be sunny – and it usually is!
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