On December 31, 2023, the Météo France station at Mont Aigoual (Gard) will be fully automated. The meteorologists of the last inhabited center of France will have to pack up. Something to alarm forecasters about the quality of future meteorological data.
It is an outpost located in the South of France, in the face of climate change. Since 1894, Mont Aigoual has been home to one of the oldest weather stations of France. At over time, the teams of Meteo France follow one another. “the Mount Aigoual, it is a very strategic geographical locationexplains José Chevalier, spokesperson for the Solidaires union Meteo France and forecaster in Rennes. It offers a very sharp vision on the regular phenomena which occur in the south, like the Cevennes episodes. It is a sort of weather watch for this region of France.“
This long history has resulted in one of the most important series of climatological records in the world. But that era is soon over. The site’s last three resident meteorological technicians, including the site Reporterre reports the story, will vacate the premises by December 31, 2023, when the station will be fully automated.
Very bad news for José Chevalier: “with this automation, we will experience a loss of information which will be detrimental to the quality of our forecasts. there is no doubt. We do not refuse new technologies, quite the contrary, but they are not enough.“
Machines do not yet allow everything to be described. For example, radars are very effective in detecting the arrival of a precipitation zone, but are unable to accurately describe the nature of this precipitation. “Is it drizzle? Steady rain? Snow ? It is very often difficult to say and we find ourselves in situations where informing or assisting our interlocutors, such as departmental councils, turns out to be very complicated.explains José Chevalier. I have already said that the snow will arrive at 1 p.m. and have observers contradict me by saying “but it is already there”. The lack of lifts is the weak link in our alert system.“
Over the past 20 years, Meteo France has opted for numerical forecasts, entrusted to automated observation tools. “For economic reasons“according to Maximilian suarezSolidarity spokesperson Meteo France and forecaster in Toulouse, And this to the detriment of human observation. It is very complicated to measure the depth of snow. Nothing beats a human walking out into their backyard and saying there was six inches of snow.“
However, Météo France has decided to replace its 2,300 volunteer observersresponsible for collecting temperature and precipitation data, by automated measuring stations. “This very dense network of volunteer observers represented several dozen points per department. It wasn’t instant information, but they provided us with monthly temperature, rainfall, and an accurate daily weather report. This climatological series will stop. We are going to lose decades of data at a time when climate change made these readings even more essential..”
According to Maximilian suarez “Meteo France knew 30% loss of its workforce in 15 years. There are malfunctions in our tools, more than a hundred positions are still unfilled. The situation is getting quite difficult.“
The passage to “everything automatique“Mont Aigoual is for the two forecasters a very bad sign:” We are entitled to ask ourselves the question of when Météo France will give itself the means to respond correctly to its mission: communicate, inform the public about meteorological science. Especially after a summer when the population finally understood the challenges of global warming.”
The prospect does not suit Robert Aigoinvice-president of departmental council of Lozèrecustomer of Meteo France : “We had already alerted to the problem when Nicolas Porthole was Minister of Ecology to avoid any closure of the site. The human presence is very important and reassuring, especially for our departmental road network. Today, if a machine breaks down, a weather technician is immediately there to repair it. When they are no longer on Mont Aigoual and the road is cut off by snow, what will we do?“
The local elected official is not satisfied with this perspective: “We still have a year to be able to prepare the response and avoid this automation.“The forecasts therefore already announce a storm warning on Mont Aigoual over the next few months.
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Météo-France: the automation in 2024 of the Mont Aigoual station raises concerns about the future quality of forecasts
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