What’s happening with the weather in Corsica? High temperatures and violent winds, it’s been an extraordinary winter…

Shining light after the storm, Parata

February has been extremely mild and we are looking forward to a calm Springtime. Corsica  was  on  ‘orange  alert’ when storm Ciara hit the island.  The surge of strong winds and mild temperatures have seen  forest fires  ravage hectares of land.

We have just witnessed a difficult 24hrs (10-11 February) At 8am the temperature in Bastia, was already reported at 24° and later in the day it soared to 25,6°. The temperature didn’t fall below 22° all night, it was described as tropical.

Barbicaja beach, Route des Sanguinaires

In Pietracorbara, situated in the Cap Corse, 110  fireman were mobilized to combat the flames.  The highest gusts of wind were measured at speeds of up to 219 km/h (136 mph)

70 hectares of land have been impacted. The terrain is rocky, there are not many trees, which helped to limit the progression of the flames.

* All transport to and  from Bastia and the Balagne was blocked.  Ferry rotations were suspended and  flights cancelled.

* All schools were closed.

* 1700 homes found themselves without  electricity.

A second area, near to Bavella, has also been severely affected. The terrain here however, is densely wooded, mountainous and difficult to access.

The people from the village of Solaro  were in shock and disbelief as they watched 1500 surrounding hectares of forest go up in smoke. 

The severity of the disaster called for extra men to be brought in rapidly from mainland France, to fight the fire. They are known as ‘Soldats de feu’ Soldiers of Fire! The situated called for a dual operation, as well as, men fighting on the ground, a helicopter was used to bombard the forest with  water.

Interview with Stephane Usciati & Patrick Rebillout, the Director of Meteo France, Ajaccio This is what he had to say…

‘What was the intensity of  storm Ciara? 

The storm was severe and violent but hit in micro regions that we could contain, it did not affect the whole of the island.

‘Are there more major storms than normal?’

Yes, we have declared 17 ‘alerts orange’ in the last 3 years. There have been 216 official storms recorded since 1980.

Amongst the twenty biggest storms in the last 20 years, we note that  in the last 3 years they are more frequent  – one in 2017 /  five in 2018 / two in 2019.

Cloudy Sky in Corsica

Is this due to global warming?

Not entirely, what we are witnessing is not a long term phenomena. The storms will continue whilst we are in this particular weather pattern.

We are in a phase of  ‘positive Arctic oscillation’ with low pressure  over the Artic.   Strong westerlies keep the cold Arctic air confined in the north. Although we are getting strong gusts of wind, we are not getting much rain, it could lead to a water shortage this summer.

We have so many micro-climates in Corsica, with such varying internal temperatures. 

Are there too many ‘alerts orange’  to be taken seriously, has this campaign made them a bit banal?

They are all justified, people should take them seriously and be careful when we send out an alert!

Storm, Ajaccio


Written by Frédéric Cesari

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