Giboulées de mars

The sky grows dark. The wind picks up. The temperature drops. A few fat drops blow down at an odd angle, turning to freezing rain. Just as quickly, the sun pokes through the clouds. A few minutes later, the patches of wet are drying on the ground.

And then the cycle starts again. Sometimes several times a day.

March is famous for its ‘giboulées’, less thrillingly known as showers in English. They can happen anytime as we transition from winter to spring. I’ve even seen this unstable weather last almost until summer.

I don’t mind it so much. It reminds us that better days are coming. It brings needed water for the gardens. It seems, in a world gone mad, an entirely normal rite of passage in the change of seasons.

If, as the saying goes, April showers bring May flowers, it all happens a lot earlier in France. Some of the flowers are already out in the lower altitudes of the Haute Savoie, and things are much further along in the south.

According to Météo France, our venerated weather experts, the giboulée phenomenon is due to a contrast of colder air above and warmer air below, and the instability of the atmosphere in between. Here you go with the whole story explained in detail (in French):

As you can see we take our weather seriously around here.

This situation of instability strikes me as somehow fitting. As the Brits waffle over whether to stay or go, on what terms and when, as improbable skirmishes and political polarizations seemingly become more extreme around the world each day, I watch the skies above at their most turbulent and enjoy this meteorological drama. It seems safer and far more predictable than the human kind.

Just a few more days until it’s officially spring, mes amis.

What does the change of seasons mean to you?


  1. francetaste · March 14, 2019

    Meteo Pedago! Love it. Will have to explore it further.
    Your photo of the clouds reflected in the puddle is gorgeous.
    We got rain starting yesterday evening. We are thrilled. The ground was getting hard it was so dry; February brought only 12mm of rain vs. 54mm on average. OTOH my losing battle with the weeds will be set back even further by the rain–keeping me inside and giving them sustenance. Do you like to garden? I think it’s even worse than having dental work done.
    The best part, rain or shine, is that the days are getting noticeably longer. It is so much more pleasant to get up at dawn than before dawn, and to drive home in light instead of the dark.

    • MELewis · March 14, 2019

      Ha, had not even noticed the ‘pedago’ part. 😂 How is it that in France we either have no information or are given an entire education? By an engineer, no less! Glad you are getting needed rain but sorry about the weeds. I admire those who garden but can’t muster much enthusiasm for the back-breaking work. Love the results though — nature gives back so much when we give it so little! As for longer days, yes! But looking forward to springing forward for the last time soon. The change drives me nuts!

  2. phildange · March 14, 2019

    Ah Ah ! But you should know that the weather is entirely the product of human mental and emotional collective state ! We always had a few people here and there to counterweight and balance our collective insanity .But sure nowadays the madness might reach an irretrievable level soon, even for our best Medicine Men .
    If so just call me . Me and a Hopi pal we made the rain fall after 6 months without a waterdrop in Arizona . No kidding, the Hopis gave me several presents for that ( I did not tell them I had no idea of what had been going on, thinking this would spoil my new aura) .

    Do you know the expression ” Il fait la pluie et le beau temps” to speak of an almighty person in any organization ?

    • MELewis · March 14, 2019

      I did not know that expression, thanks for sharing it! But I definitely want some of whatever you were smoking with the Hopi pal! 😆

    • francetaste · March 14, 2019

      Is it like a rainmaker–somebody who brings in business?
      My stepdaughter can make it rain. Any time she comes to visit from Belgium, it pours. I have suggested she charge a fee to make visits during droughts.

      • MELewis · March 14, 2019

        Hilarious! I have the opposite effect: every time I go back to Canada at Christmas, there’s nary a flake of snow. They’ve had such a terrible winter this year they’ll probably beg me to come for a visit next year! (Although to be fair, Christmas is the one time that everybody likes to see a bit of snow).

      • phildange · March 14, 2019

        i’d suggest to make her work in Mali or Gobi . The fee would be widely higher .
        Mel doesn’t believe me but the Hopis around did and I guess they know better …

  3. Al in France · March 14, 2019

    Here in the Deux-Sevres we have more than enough ‘giboulées’, but having just seeded a new lawn I’m thrilled as it saves me having to water it…just as long as it doesn’t get too heavy and wash my hard work away! Beautiful photos of dramatic skies.

    • MELewis · March 14, 2019

      I had to look up the Deux-Sevres to remind myself where it was. Gorgeous region! Hope your seeds have time to sprout some roots before the rain comes down too hard. Watering is such a pain and if nature can do the work for you, what more can you ask? Glad you enjoyed the skies!

  4. Becky Ross Michael · March 14, 2019

    Gorgeous photographs! When I lived in Michigan for many years, spring offered a strong sense of beginnings and renewal, as if anything could be possible. Now in Texas, where the temps are up and down all winter long, I don’t get that same feeling. It helps, of course, when things actually begin to bloom. Then it’s tornado season, which I don’t like at all!!!

    • MELewis · March 14, 2019

      I can imagine that not having a proper cold winter makes spring less inspiring. Tornado season must be terrifying indeed. We lived in Minnesota when I was a teen and experienced many warnings and a few scary storms (though I don’t remember seeing any true tornadoes). Glad you liked the photos!

  5. M. L. Kappa · March 14, 2019

    Fantastic photos! And I looove wild cyclamen. Being a Mediterranean, I have conflicting feelings about giboulées. On one hand I’m sick of winter, and ready for more sun and the beach—on the other, we spend so much time in Greece wishing for rain, that I’m always thankful when it comes. Oh well, as long as there’s something to complain about…😬🤣

    • MELewis · March 14, 2019

      Wild cyclamen — so that’s what it’s called! Thanks for enriching my botanically challenged vocabulary. Always something to complain about? You must feel right at home in France (as do I…) 😜

  6. Susanne · March 14, 2019

    Such an optimistic post. Spring coming? Hard to tell in snowy, cold Ottawa. Yesterday we got about 2 inches of wet snow in 1.5 hours during rush hour which meant it was smoothed into finely polished ice for the commute home. Wet snow is spring in Ottawa. Plus puddles and potholes. I’d much rather your showery days.

    • MELewis · March 15, 2019

      I do feel a bit guilty posting about spring when you guys are having the worst winter in ages, even worse admitting I’ve missed the snow these past couple of years. Ottawa is one of the coldest places I can remember being in the winter. But the light that the white stuff brings is something special. Cold consolation, I know, but it’s all I’ve got. 😢 Courage!

  7. Colin Bisset · March 14, 2019

    We’re having a giboulées week at the moment and it’s rather nice after a torrid summer – the garden is certainly happy. Most Australians still refer to the four seasons but the indigenous people have it honed into a much more logical sequence – time of fertility/ fish spawning/ fires, etc – that really reflects the weather patterns here (although they are changing, rapidly, as elsewhere). I imagine it’s the same for indigenous Canadians, too… and maybe even the Swiss!

    • MELewis · March 15, 2019

      How interesting that you would have similar giboulées at the same time down under when you are shifting between opposite seasons. I can imagine how welcome rain showers must be after a long, hot summer. I feel that we are only now catching up from the drought we had last summer. Those indigenous peoples have the long view to really see these things in their context…wish I knew some older generation farmers around here who could say what the weather was like 20 or 30 years ago.

  8. Heide · March 14, 2019

    Oh, how I love your writing — because you always share some lovely observation about your world, while teaching me something new (“giboulées”!). Your photos are wonderful too; I especially love the reflection of the clouds in the puddles, and those dainty purple flowers. But while I join you in welcoming spring (whenever it finally arrives) I’m struggling to feel optimistic about the long-term forecast. Maybe I’ve overdosed on Brexit deliberations, but it seems the world has gone mad. Let us hope it’s just a passing giboulée. Bonne soirée !

    • MELewis · March 15, 2019

      And I love that catch my drift, Heide, and that it speaks to you! We are agreed about fearing the world gone mad. But as you say — as long as we have seasons that change, hope springs! x

  9. nessafrance · March 15, 2019

    I don’t like rain, but there’s something comforting about les giboulées de mars because you know that spring can’t be far behind.

    • MELewis · March 15, 2019

      Yes, and now that we have actually had two days of solid cold rain, not a ray of sunshine in sight, I am longing for a return of the giboulées! Hope you enjoy nicer weather this weekend in the southwest.

  10. Joanne Sisco · March 16, 2019

    It’s going to be a long while yet before we see anything like the flowers in your photos. I do like the word ‘giboulée’ though. Maybe I’ll think more kindly of March weather if I use the word giboulée instead ☔️

  11. zipfslaw1 · March 18, 2019

    Can you explain the difference/similarities between a giboulée and an averse? Puzzles me…

    • phildange · March 19, 2019

      Une averse is an ordinary shower . Une giboulée happens during the transition between winter and spring and is always associated with a strong wind blow . It is a mixed shower that can offer , some rain, some hail, some snow, depending on the temperature around .

      • zipfslaw1 · March 23, 2019

        Thanks, PhilDange! I will clearly be avoiding giboulées as much as possible…

  12. zipfslaw1 · March 18, 2019

    OK, I get it—a giboulée is a si class of averse. I think!!

    • MELewis · March 19, 2019

      I think Phil explained giboulée better than I could but answer me this, please: what is a si class?

      • zipfslaw1 · March 23, 2019

        A shameful typo–sorry. 🙂 I meant to say “is a class of.”

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