Recent years among Ireland’s wettest, 300 years of records show

Records indicate Irish winters are getting wetter but summer rainfall is decreasing

What is believed to one of the largest compilations of weather records in the world – showing monthly rainfall levels in Ireland stretching from the present back to 1711 – has been compiled by a scientist at NUI Maynooth.

Climatologist Dr Conor Murphy outlined what the vast amount of data spanning 305 years is beginning to show at the European Meteorological Society conference in DCU; fierce storms in 1870, drought which hit in 1850 and record rainfall over the winter of 2016.

The sources include early weather diaries compiled by committed individuals such as Dr John Rutty in Dublin from 1716 to 1765; ship log books and data that was hidden away in a UK Met Office facility up until 1979.

“At this point, we are unpacking the data . . . It’s quite humbling to see the amount of work people have done. The research is drawing on the life-long work of hundreds of people,” he explained.


The figures are invaluable in researching the variability of weather patterns. The long-term records also help interpret rainfall events more accurately. In addition, they have practical implications, he said, such as in “stress-testing” the ability of water systems to withstand extreme weather events and in validating climate change models used to predict future trends.

They will also enable climatologists to be more confident in anticipating future weather episodes. Recent years feature in the top 10 of wettest winters and wettest summers over the three centuries. This is due to a warming world caused by human-induced CO2 emissions.

In spite of the extreme episodes, the data confirms that “Irish winters are getting wetter but summer rainfall is decreasing”, Dr Murphy added.

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan is Environment and Science Editor and former editor of The Irish Times