Spike in number of weather alerts and warnings for 2014
Trend persists into early part of this year, with a sharp increase in snow or ice warnings
Several locations have received more notifications for adverse weather so far this year than they did in the whole of 2013. Photograph: Frank Miller/The Irish Times
It’s official: the wet and windy southwest has endured the wildest weather since Met Éireann’s colour-coded warning system was introduced in 2012.
Data released by the forecasting service shows Cork has been subject to the most weather alerts and warnings over the last three years, followed closely by Kerry.
Cork had 267 notifications, including 194 yellow alerts, 68 orange warnings and five red warnings, the most severe level available.
Red warnings encourage people in the affected area to take action to protect themselves and their property from weather-related damage. Orange is for conditions which can significantly impact on people, and yellow alerts are used for events that may pose a risk to certain people due to their location or activity rather than to the general population.
Last year saw a pronounced spike in the overall number of alerts and warnings issued, up from 1,858 nationwide in 2013 to 2,529 in 2014.
The trend has continued into the early part of this year, with an unprecedented increase in the number of snow/ice alerts sent out as a result of a cold spell in January and February.
Some places have received more notifications for adverse weather so far this year than they did in the whole of 2013.
The increase since the beginning of last year can largely be attributed to a sustained barrage of severe Atlantic depressions which washed over Ireland in the last two winters, causing widespread disruption and damage that cost hundreds of millions of euro.
Cavan had the fewest weather notifications overall (207) in the same period and the lowest number of rainfall alerts at 32.
Leinster and Connacht have had the most notifications relating to high temperatures.
There are clearly defined criteria in place for issuing red warnings in relation to extreme temperatures, rainfall and thunderstorms, but so far only storm-force winds have triggered the the highest-level alert.
Multiple notifications often emanate from one extended weather event, and they are usually issued on a regional or country-wide basis rather than for individual counties.
Met Éireann has only issued one colour-coded warning in relation to flooding when it put out a nationwide orange alert for February 14th last year.
Meteorologist Brian Delaney believes the new coding system has proved its use, but that misinterpretations have led to unnecessary worry for some people.
“I think a lot of people like the clarity of it, and some people have instituted management procedures on the basis of colour-coded warnings and take certain actions in the event of orange or red warnings.
“Sometimes yellow alerts are picked up by the media, and if it’s a slow news day they’re given the same sort of profile [as orange and red]. A lot of people will just hear ‘warning, alert, Met Éireann’ and it mightn’t really need that,” he said.