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Weather in the Languedoc-Roussillon in the South of France: The Mediterranean Climate

The Mediterranean climate is one of hot summers and mild winters. The name applies not only to the climate of the lands bordering the Mediterranean Sea, but a number of other land masses with similar climates.

Outside the Mediterranean this climate covers relatively small areas of the Earth's surface, generally the western coasts of continental land masses at latitudes around ± 35°. Regions that have a Mediterranean Climate include much of California and non-coastal southern Oregon; the Western Cape in South Africa; central Chile; the coastal areas of central and south-east South Australia and the Southern part of Western Australia (Perth has a typical Mediterranean climate).


 Lightning. During summer, regions of Mediterranean climate are dominated by subtropical high pressure cells, with dry sinking air capping a marine surface layer making rainfall impossible except for occasional thunderstorms. In winter the polar jet stream and its associated periodic storms reach into the lower latitudes of the Mediterranean zones, bringing rain (or snow at higher elevations). As a result, areas with this climate receive almost all of its yearly rainfall during the winter season, and may go up to 5 months during the summer without seeing significant rain (Think Jean de Florette).

Mediterranean climates tend to grade toward the poles into zones of Oceanic climate in which summer rains are high, and towards the poles into dry-summer steppe where winter rains are low.

The Mediterranean climate is associated with the large subtropical high pressure cells over the oceans. These high pressure cells shift towards the poles in the summer and back towards the equator in the winter, playing a major role in the formation of the world's tropical deserts.

Subtropical High Pressure cell
Associated Desert
Associated Mediterranean Climate
Azores High
Sahara Desert
Mediterranean Basin
South Atlantic High
Namib Desert
Western Cape of South Africa.
North Pacific High
Sonoran Desert
South Pacific High
Atacama Desert
Central Chile
Indian Ocean High
the deserts of western Australia (Great Sandy Desert, Great Victoria Desert, and Gibson Desert)
southwest and south-central Australia.

All regions with Mediterranean climates have relatively mild winters, but summer temperatures depend on the region. All regions with a Mediterranean climate are near large bodies of water, so temperatures are generally moderate with a small range of temperatures between the winter low and summer high.

 Lightning.  Lightning. Temperatures during winter only occasionally reach freezing and snow only rarely occurs at sea level, but often in surrounding mountains. In the Languedoc-Roussillon, this means the Pyrenees, the Massif Central and the Alps. In the summer, the temperatures range from mild to very warm, depending on distance from the open ocean and elevation. Strong winds from inland desert regions can sometimes boost summer temperatures resulting in a much increased risk of forest fire. In the Languedoc-Roussillon the Scirocco or Sirocco occasionally blows from the Sahara. Inland locations sheltered from or distant from sea breezes can experience severe heat during the summer.

 Lightning. Locations that are higher latitude and cut off from milder ocean winds may have colder winters and more distinct seasons. This "temperate Mediterranean" climate is most noticeable in the Languedoc (and central Spain, northern Italy, and northern Greece). In these areas, plants that are commonly associated with milder Mediterranean climates, such as citrus, olive, oleander and eucalyptus, will not survive a severe winter. You will see orange and lemon trees near the coast of the Languedoc, but not far inland.

Characteristic Mediterranean forests, woodlands, and shrubland are closely associated with Mediterranean climate zones. Particularly distinctive are sclerophyll shrublands called maquis in the Mediterranean Basin - garrigue in the Languedoc (They have different names elsewhere, chaparral in California, matorral in Chile, fynbos in South Africa, and mallee and kwongan shrublands in Australia).

The maquis provided a name for local guerilla fighters during the Second World War. They were known as the Maquis from the wild areas in which they operated.


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Weather map.
The Mediterranean Climate of the Languedoc-Roussillon