The Irish climate has been getting wetter, according to a study of rainfall over the past 300 years – and the decade from 2006 to 2015 was the wettest on record.
A historical analysis of average-rainfall data has showed a “continuous rise in annual and winter rainfall”, consistent with the impact of “human-driven climate change”, according to Dr Conor Murphy of Maynooth University, the lead researcher on the study. Dr Murphy said the wetter weather has had significant knock-on effects, such as more frequent flooding and stormier winters.
The research, which looked at the period from 1711 to 2016, and was published in the journal Climate of the Past, found Ireland now has one of the longest continuous records of rainfall in the world. The most recent decade recorded 1,990mm of rain a year, compared with an average of 1,080mm over the 305 years.
The driest decade on record was 1740 to 1749; overall the study indicates a continued trend of drier summers and wetter winters. The driest winter on record was in 1783, caused by the eruption of the Laki volcano in Iceland, which gave most of Europe an extremely warm summer and dry winter.
Pádraic Joyce, a dairy farmer near Westport, Co Mayo, with 100 cows, said the changing climate and increasing rainfall are affecting Irish farming. Wetter winters mean supplies of fodder, to feed livestock indoors, are stretched thinner each year, forcing farmers to rely on other feed, such as barley, or buy fodder from England and France. “That all comes at a cost,” said Mr Joyce, who chairs the Irish Farmers’ Association in Connacht. He said the pressure is “causing a lot of grief”.
“The end result is a lot of young farmers are getting out of the industry, because it’s not profitable at the moment.”.
The increased frequency of serious flooding in recent years was also hitting farmers’ ability to make a living in flood-prone areas, he said.