A dull, wet and warmer year


It is official: 1998 was dull and wet, Met Eireann announced yesterday.

It was mild and dull for the first three months before becoming dull and wet in April. The summer was officially dull and wet while we endured the wettest autumn in 15 years.

The winter was wet with normal sunshine - for winter, that is - with "disturbed" weather in December leading to storms in the north-west and south last week.

Behind the bleak statistics is the news that average air temperatures were 8.5C at Shannon - were particularly high, the highest for more than 40 years in some places.

Of little surprise is the news that rainfall totals for the year were well above normal, with the driest place recorded as Rosslare, Co Wexford, where rainfall was described as 109 per cent of normal.

The wettest place recorded was Clones, Co Monaghan, where the rainfall was 128 per cent of normal, the highest in almost 50 years. At Birr, Co Offaly, and Mullingar, Co Westmeath, it was the wettest year for 33 and 38 years respectively.

In other parts of the midlands and south it was the wettest year in 40 years, while Birr endured its wettest June since records began. Cork Airport measured the highest daily rainfall of the year, 75.8mm on August 31st.

April, June and October were the wettest months and February and May the driest. April was the only month which was cooler than normal everywhere, and temperatures were well above normal in March, May, September and particularly February which was the mildest on record.

The lowest air temperature of the year, 5.5C, was recorded unusually late in the year on April 10th at Casement Aerodrome. This was the day that an unseasonal frost gripped the eastern part of the country, causing significant damage to early crops.

After a summer of few very warm days, the highest air temperature of the year was recorded at 25.4C at Belmullet, Co Mayo, on September 21st.

Birr had just 82 per cent of normal sunshine, while sunshine levels at virtually all measuring stations were well below normal, in keeping with levels throughout the 1990s with the exception of 1995. On a monthly basis, October was the only month with above-average sunshine everywhere. February and March, while mild, were particularly dull.

The highest daily sunshine, 15.6 hours, was recorded at Malin Head on June 15th. Malin Head was also the location of the highest recorded gust of the year, 96 knots or 111 m.p.h. recorded last Saturday, St Stephen's Day. Average wind speeds for the year were above normal generally, the highest for between eight and 10 years in places.

The data are compiled by the Climatology and Observations Division of Met Eireann, based on results of 15 weather stations throughout the State. According to a spokesman 1998 was really only notable for its lack of distinction in weather terms:

"Overall slightly above normal temperatures, not a lot of sunshine, nothing significant, dull and wet. The high point was the wind in December - part of the St Stephen's Day storm which was gusting at around 110 m.p.h. This was the highest windspeed since September 1961 when the final stages of Hurricane Debbie hit the north-west", he commented.

Meanwhile, the outlook for the coming days is for changeable weather, mostly wet and windy interspersed with sunny periods and showers, according to Met Eireann. Strong gales have been forecast for the Irish Sea, and ferry operators have cancelled some of the services. Intending passengers are advised to make contact with ferry operators before travelling.