France France France France

Storms France

There is a lot of cross-border information on storms in Northern, Western and Central Europe. This information is summarized on the page for Germany in the window 'Storms: European scale'. Additional information that specifically refers to individual countries is presented on the Storm pages of these countries.

Vulnerabilities – Trends of storm frequency and intensity in the past

The storms of the 1990s

During December 1999, three severe storms hit Europe, causing insured losses above 10 billion EUR (1). The total economic losses were roughly twice as much. The insured loss attributed to only one of those storms (Lothar, 26 December 1999) amounted to 5.9 billion EUR (11.3 billion EUR for economic loss), primarily in France (1).

These storms affected 79 of France’s 95 departments, and resulted in 92 casualties (150 in whole Europe), 7 billion EUR damage paid by assurance in France and 3.45 million households left without electricity (2).

Winter storm Xynthia, February 2010

The violent extratropical storm Xynthia hit coastal Western Europe on the 27–28 February (3). Bringing hurricane force winds and heavy rain in what was the worst storm in the region since 1999. Gusts of 120–140 km/h were common on low ground in France, and at Pic du Midi in the French Pyrenees a wind gust of 238 km/h was recorded (4). More than 60 people were killed across Western Europe. The majority of deaths were in France where storm surges reached 1.5 m at La Rochelle and caused sea walls to break in L’Agillon-sur-Mer, Vendee (3,4). The widespread wind and storm surge damage resulted in insured losses in France and Germany exceeding US$ 4 billion (4).

Vulnerabilities – Future storm frequency and intensity

More hurricanes

Model simulations (based on a climate change scenario showing 1°C less global warming than the SRES A1B scenario) suggest that tropical hurricanes might become a serious threat for Western Europe in the future (6). An increase in severe storms of predominantly tropical origin reaching Western Europe is anticipated as part of 21st global warming. An eastward extension of the development region of tropical storms is projected. In the current climate, the main genesis region for hurricanes is confined to the western tropical Atlantic, where sea surface temperatures are above the threshold (27°C) required for tropical cyclones to develop. Future tropical storms that reach western European coasts (and cause hurricane-force storms) predominantly originate from the eastern part of the tropical Atlantic. This is because climate warming in the eastern tropical Atlantic causes sea surface temperatures to rise well above the 27°C threshold. In addition to an increase in the frequency of severe winds (Beaufort 11–12), a shift is projected of the season of highest occurrence from winter to autumn (6). Scientists stress that both natural variability and human influences (including climate change) play a role in determining the frequency, strength and trajectory of hurricanes on the Atlantic Ocean (8).

After their formation, tropical cyclones move in a north-westerly direction. When they reach the mid-latitudes they are caught by the predominant westerly winds, thereby veering their track in a north-easterly direction, with the possibility of reaching Western Europe. Geometrically, this likelihood increases if their genesis region in the tropical Atlantic is further to the east. In addition, the shorter travel distance in the mid-latitudes will enable the “tropical” characteristics of hurricanes to be better preserved along their journey to Western Europe. Hence, the likelihood of these storms maintaining their strength when reaching Western Europe will increase, because there is simply less time for them to dissipate (7).

Adaptation strategies France


In France insurance coverance (in % of forest area) is 7% (5).


The references below are cited in full in a separate map 'References'. Please click here if you are looking for the full references for France.

  1. Munich Re (2001), in: Pinto et al. (2007)
  2. Ministère de l’Ecologie, de l’Energie, du Développement durable et de la Mer (2009)
  3. Maier et al. (2011), in: UK Met Office (2011)
  4. WMO (2011), in: UK Met Office (2011)
  5. Gardiner et al. (2010)
  6. Haarsma et al. (2013)
  7. Hart and Evans (2001), in: Haarsma et al. (2013)
  8. Rosen (2017)