France Had Unusually Cold March With Snow Blanketing Northwest

France, the European Union’s largest grain producer, had an unusually cold March that saw as much as 40 centimeters (16 inches) of snow fall on the country’s northwest during an “exceptional” period.

Last month’s average temperature was 7.5 degrees Celsius (45.5 degrees Fahrenheit), 1.3 degrees lower than usual, the Paris-based Agriculture Ministry wrote in an online report today. The north of the country averaged 4.6 degrees Celsius, 2.7 degrees below normal.

Cold weather in March delayed grain development in France, where soft wheat is more than two weeks behind last year, according to figures from the national crop office. The grain ear reached 1 centimeter on 22 percent of the crop as of April 1, down from 86 percent a year earlier, the data showed.

“March had a period in the middle of the month that was particularly cold for almost all of the country, accompanied by an exceptional snowy episode in several regions,” the ministry wrote. “The month was cold, with a varied rain pattern.”

Snowfall during the cold period left “remarkable” amounts in the northwest, particularly in Lower Normandy, where depths frequently reached 20 to 40 centimeters, the report showed.

National rainfall averaged 8.1 centimeters in March, 52 percent above normal, the ministry wrote. Total rainfall since Sept. 1 is 20 percent above usual amounts in the country, according to the report.

Soil-humidity levels rose above reference values from the south to the east, while remaining below normal in the Ile-de-France and Lorraine regions, the ministry said.

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