Frequency of extreme Irish rain events projected to rise 30%

Met Éireann head of research warns Citizens’ Assembly of weather changes by mid-century

Flooding in Swords, Co Dublin, in October 2013: The frequency of extreme rainfall events in winter and autumn is  projected to increase by 30 per cent, according to Dr Saji Varghese of Met Éireann. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

Flooding in Swords, Co Dublin, in October 2013: The frequency of extreme rainfall events in winter and autumn is projected to increase by 30 per cent, according to Dr Saji Varghese of Met Éireann. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

 

Ireland is set for dramatic changes in its weather as early as mid-century, Met Éireann’s head of research told the Citizens’ Assembly today.

The impacts are likely to include a large decrease in overall rainfall as average temperatures are set to increase by up to 1.6 degrees, according to Dr Saji Varghese.

The frequency of extreme rainfall events in winter and autumn are, however, projected to increase by 30 per cent, he added. As a consequence of warmer temperatures, the number of “frost days” in Ireland were projected to decrease by over 50 per cent by 2050.

Warming will be “enhanced for the extremes” – ie very hot or cold days – with average summer daytime temperatures projected to rise by up to 2 degrees and lowest night-time temperatures to rise by up to 2 to 3 degrees in winter, Dr Varghese said.

Dr Peter Stott of the UK Met Office told members the winter storms that affected Britain and Ireland in 2013-2014 were “a wake-up call” on climate, illustrating how vulnerable both countries were to such events.

The dining room at Paul Bradley’s house, built on a flood plain of the Burnfoot river in Co Donegal, August 2017. Climate change is increasing the risks of flash flooding in summers months, as had occurred in Donegal recently, Dr Peter Stott of the UK Met Office told the Citizens’ Assembly. File photograph: Peter Murtagh/The Irish Times
The dining room at Paul Bradley’s house, built on a flood plain of the Burnfoot river in Co Donegal, August 2017. Climate change is increasing the risks of flash flooding in summers months, as had occurred in Donegal recently, Dr Peter Stott of the UK Met Office told the Citizens’ Assembly. File photograph: Peter Murtagh/The Irish Times

Research since had shown “we can blame the unusual storminess on natural weather processes, though when the storms occurred their impacts in terms of heavy rainfall and flooding were worse due to climate change”, he added.

Flash flooding

Allied to this, climate change was increasing the risks of flash flooding in the summers months, as had occurred in Donegal recently, Dr Stott noted.

The latest research on human-induced climate change confirmed its impact on heatwaves, which had become more extreme, as evidenced by “Heatwave Lucifer” in Europe this summer which saw temperatures reaching the mid-40s around the Mediterranean and resulted in a 15 per cent increase in admissions to hospitals in Italy.

There was, nonetheless, a “wealth of scientific evidence showing that limiting the rise in global average surface temperature will help avoid some of the most dangerous impacts of climate change – including limiting flooding from sea level rise”, he added.

Paul Bradley in the hall of his flooded home, built on a floodplain of the Burnfoot river, in Donegal, August 2017. File photograph: Peter Murtagh/The Irish Times
Paul Bradley in the hall of his flooded home, built on a floodplain of the Burnfoot river, in Donegal, August 2017. File photograph: Peter Murtagh/The Irish Times

Commenting at the start of the Assembly’s proceedings on climate change, Minister for Climate Action Denis Naughten said he was keen to learn the Assembly’s views on how a National Dialogue on Climate Action should “engage with the wider public to create awareness, engagement and motivation to act in relation to the challenges of climate change”.

Not overnight

Adding that Government responsibility and leadership needed to be complemented by citizen engagement, Mr Naughten added: “The challenges of climate change are not simple ones, and the actions we need to take will not take place overnight. Our transition to a low carbon and climate resilient economy will depend on incremental action and behavioural change, and will depend upon strong leadership, concrete policies and committed engagement by all.”

Ireland’s first statutory National Mitigation Plan “sets out the context for our climate change objective, clarifies the level of greenhouse gas mitigation ambition Ireland needs, and establishes the process by which we will pursue and achieve our decarbonisation goals”, he said.

“I see the Plan as a living document which will be refined and built on, a process which will need the input from the Citizens’ Assembly and the National Dialogue in order to achieve its goals.”