21 July 2019

Here comes the heat again

The "dog days" of summer — called la canicule in France — don't start on a precise date and end on another precise date. However, historically, the period called "dog days" covers the month starting about now in July and ending in late August. That's an astronomical view of things, because the star known as Canis Major, the dog star, rises above the horizon in northern latitudes at this time of year, and its rise coincides with the hottest part of the year in Europe and North America. It's the brightest star in the heavens after the sun.

Ancient Egyptians and Greeks believed that the heat of the dog star combined with the heat emanating from the sun to produce some of the year's most torrid weather. It's happening that way here in France this summer. Look at Accuweather's Saint-Aignan forecast for the coming week, above, in English and in degrees Fahrenheit. See below for the same forecast in French and in degrees Celsius. The most uncomfortable days will be Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. With any luck, we won't have to suffer much longer than that — unless we have another heat wave in August.

In meteorological terms, the arrival of "dog days" or major heat waves is not so precisely defined in time. Here in France, we had an early épisode caniculaire in late June this year. The highest temperature in the history of record-keeping in France — 46ºC (about 115ºF) — was recorded on June 28, 2019, at Vérargues, a village located about halfway between Nîmes and Montpellier near the Mediterranean coast. It didn't get quite that hot here in Saint-Aignan, however, with a highest high of 39º on June 29.

It probably will get at least that hot again this coming week, and it will definitely correspond to the meteorological definition of the term canicule. It will be time to hunker down and limit physical activity. I hope the humidity won't be too high. Already, our back yard looks like summertime in California — the grass is completely parched and brown. It hasn't rained here since mid-June.

Speaking of dog days, I remember that in August of 2003, during one of the worst épisodes caniculaires of recent times in France, our dog Collette dug herself a hole at the northeastern corner of the house, in the shade, and lay in it for many hours over many days, instinctively seeking respite from scorching temperatures. She was 11 years old when we brought her to France in 2003, and had lived the previous eight years in chilly San Francisco. Tasha, the current pup, is also suffering because of this summer's heat waves.

Collette in 2003


  1. Ohhh, Collette was a beauty :)
    Sorry to know you'll be having this oppressive heat to deal with.

    1. On top of everything else. I'm already exhausted.

  2. J., it's interesting to look at "historical average" temperatures for different places. Accuweather gives them. For example, at this time of year the average high temperature in ºF for these places:

    Las Vegas NV 105
    Raleigh NC 90
    St. Louis MO 88
    Morehead City, NC 88 (my home town)
    Albany NY 82 (Walt's home town)
    Urbana Il 82 (where I lived in the '70s)
    St-Aignan 78 (where we live)
    Quebec City, CAN 78
    San Francisco 66 ( ! we lived there for nearly 15 years)

  3. Our daughter's dog doesn't tolerate heat well and we hose her down before walks. Maybe you can try a cold shower before bed, I dunno. Good luck with it all, including tomorrow.

    1. Cold showers (or a trip to Normandie) are a good idea. For us or for Tasha. Thanks for the good wishes.

  4. And I thought living in Florida was a good idea :(. Aaagghhh!
    Even the cats are asking me when we can go home (NY)

    1. Historical average temp. for J'ville now: 92°F. Pump up the AC.

  5. Ken maybe you guys should get an A/C for the upstairs loft. It seems like heat is going to be an ongoing issue globally. I'm sure you saw the US east coast had some extreme highs recently. Evelyn, how clever to hose down your dog before walks! I'll have to share that with neighbors that have dogs that don't like the heat.

  6. Today we are in our third day of mid-ninety temps. But tomorrow the high is supposed to be 74F! A few pretty cool days and back to the 80s, but not these terrible dog days.

  7. Temps of this sort are not, as you point out, unprecedented. I lived in Manhattan through some brutally hot and humid summers and without any air conditioning. Now even the subway cars have AC.
    I think the differences now are that everyone is aware of the weather as a global factor, both TV and the internet put it right in our faces all the time, and it's everywhere at once, not isolated heat waves. Plus, we've all become accustomed to thinking that we can control the environment without effort, or cost.


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