According to figures recently released by Meteo France, last year there were near average levels of sunshine in the south, and around 10% higher in the north.
It was an exceptional year in the north east, which recorded levels of sunshine 20% to 30% higher than normal , surpassing many areas of the south west.
As can be seen from the table below, most unusually three departments from the Grand Est region are amongst the top 25 departments with the highest number of sunshine hours in the year.
Similarly, the region of Bourgogne-Franche-Comté figures prominently in the table, with three departments recording record levels of sunshine.
Another exceptional appearance in the list is the department of Dordogne (Nouvelle-Aquitaine) with 2,123 hours of sunshine.
However, as might be expected, the region of Provence-Alpes-Cote d'Azur tops the table as the sunniest region in mainland France, with their five deparments in the top seven, although their dominance is broken this year by two departments from Occitanie - Gard and Hérault.
Sunniest department of the year was the Bouches-du-Rhône, with 2,725 hours of sunshine, slightly lower than it has been for several years but a department that regularly tops the table.
Dropping out of the list of the top 25 departments in 2018 from 2017 were four departments from the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region - Rhône, Isère, Ain and Ardèche - and four departments from the Occitanie region - Lozère, Haute-Garonne, Ariège, and Gers.
The department with the lowest average hours of sunshine was Cher (Centre-Val de Loire) with 1,257 hours of sunshine, followed by Val-de-Oise Nord (Ile-de-France) with 1,528 hours and Oise (Hauts-de-France) with 1,617 hours.
That means the sunniest departments in the south of France have around twice as much sunshine each year as some departments in the north.
The national average level of sunshine in France is around 2,000 hours each year.
Many French departments are large, with different climate zones within them, so the table below should only be used as a general guide.
|Sunshine Hours By Department 2018|
|1||Bouches-du-Rhône (Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur)||2,725|
|2||Gard (Occitanie)||2,567 |
|3||Alpes-Maritimes (Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur) ||2,542 |
|4||Hérault (Occitanie) ||2,501 |
|5||Vaucluse (Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur)||2,458 |
|6||Alpes-de-Haute-Provence (Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur)||2,449 |
|7||Hautes-Alpes (Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur) ||2,392 |
|10||Charente Maritime (Nouvelle-Aquitaine)||2,226 |
|11||Aude (Occitanie) ||2,224|
|12||Cantal (Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes) ||2,181|
|13||Aube (Grand Est)||2,171 |
|14||Aveyron (Occtanie)||2,161 |
|15 ||Var (Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur) ||2,161|
|16||Corrèze (Nouvelle-Aquitaine)||2,146 |
|17||Charente (Nouvelle-Aquitaine)||2,146 |
|18||Marne (Grand Est)||2,142 |
|19||Haute-Marne (Grand Est)||2,130 |
The graphic below gives a cartographic representation of average level of sunshine hours across the country in recent years.
However, hours of sunshine should not be confused with temperature, as the following graphic shows. It gives the number of days each year where the temperature normally exceeds 30°C.
Last year, the hottest day occured in the departments of Bouches-du-Rhône and Gard, where the temperature reached +40°C.
Coldest days occurred in Gironde, Dordogne, Lot-et-Garonne, and Charente-Maritime, when temperatures fell to -17°C, figures which illustrate the contrasting weather patterns in France.
Nevetheless, the average national temperature over the year was 13.9°C, over 1.4°C the average for a year, making 2018 the hottest year in France this century.