Predictions come from climate models run on powerful computers

Climate change reports use tried and tested methods for forecasts

The notion of being careful about what you wish for certainly holds true when one looks at how our climate will alter due to climate change.

While we might hope for sunny summers with temperatures in the high 20s there is a payback when the seasons change.

What it might cost us includes heavy wintertime flooding both inland but also along our coastline due to downpours and higher storm surges. It might also mean more wintertime freezes like we had in 2010 with Arctic air pouring over us for weeks.

Climate change sceptics would ask how can we know what the climate will hold 50 or 100 years hence, particularly when actual weather forecasts don’t tend to extend beyond a week or so.


The reason the report's co-ordinators Met Éireann can make predictions of this kind is through the use of climate models, massively complicated mathematical simulations that can approximate how things will gradually change.

The models used by the Irish researchers and by the international teams who contributed to the forthcoming Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report to be released tomorrow in Stockholm are tried and tested.

They have been used for years to make predictions and anticipate changes in climate.

What does change is the complexity of the model and the power of the computer that runs it.

The latest predictions seen in Ireland's Climate report used some of the latest models run on the country's most powerful computer systems at the Irish Centre for High-End Computing.

Met Éireann
In 2008 Met Éireann published a similar report on climate change in Ireland, C4i, the Community Climate Change Consortium for Ireland.

This report using existing data sets and the best models of its time delivered very similar findings to this report, for example the drier summers wetter winters mix, heavier rainfalls and increased risk of flooding.

The new report also provides the latest assessments of how wildlife here will be affected by a warmer climate. Native butterfly species will come under pressure, but we will, in turn, become a haven for species migrating away northward from even warmer temperatures further south.

Many insects including bees but also trees and bird life will be put under pressure by the changing conditions.

Dick Ahlstrom

Dick Ahlstrom

Dick Ahlstrom, a contributor to The Irish Times, is the newspaper's former Science Editor.