• remote sensing;
  • heatwave;
  • drought;
  • climate change;
  • land–atmosphere feedback;
  • surface energy balance


A combination of satellite imagery, meteorological station data, and the NCEP/NCAR reanalysis has been used to explore the spatial and temporal evolution of the 2003 heat wave in France, with focus on understanding the impacts and feedbacks at the land surface. Vegetation was severely affected across the study area, especially in a swath across central France that corresponds to the Western European Broadleaf (WEB) Forests ecological zone. The remotely sensed surface temperature anomaly was also greatest in this zone, peaking at +15.4 °C in August. On a finer spatial scale, both the vegetation and surface temperature anomalies were greater for crops and pastures than for forested lands. The heat wave was also associated with an anomalous surface forcing of air temperature. Relative to other years in record, satellite-derived estimates of surface-sensible heat flux indicate an enhancement of 48–61% (24.0–30.5 W m−2) in WEB during the August heat wave maximum. Longwave radiative heating of the planetary boundary layer (PBL) was enhanced by 10.5 W m−2 in WEB for the same period. The magnitude and spatial structure of this local heating is consistent with models of the late twenty-first century climate in France, which predict a transitional climate zone that will become increasingly affected by summertime drought. Models of future climate also suggest that a soil-moisture feedback on the surface energy balance might exacerbate summertime drought, and these proposed feedback mechanisms were tested using satellite-derived heat budgets. Copyright © 2006 Royal Meteorological Society.