Hotter, wetter and more extremes: How climate change is forecast to impact Ireland

Met Éireann expert says global warming like a ‘performance enhancing drug’ for weather events

Ireland's climate is set to become more extreme by 2050, according to Met Éireann projection models, with more rain falling in different patterns to the norm and hotter, drier summers to come.

The average temperature in the State has increased by about one degree over the last 120 years, according to senior Met Éireann climatologist Keith Lambkin.

Talks at the Cop26 climate summit are focused on finding ways to limit the increase to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels by the end of the century.

Speaking to The Irish Times from the event in Glasgow, Mr Lambkin said that under all scenarios Ireland will get warmer as the years go by. He said spring is arriving earlier on average and that this brings additional grass growth but also pest diseases.

“For every degree the atmosphere warms by, it carries about 7 per cent more moisture. That effectively means more rain in the atmosphere,” he said.

Climate models predict there will be slightly more rain in Ireland by the middle of this century and that the pattern of how this falls will change. Heavier rainfall events during autumn and winter are expected, as are longer, drier summers.

“In 2020, we had a record-breaking wet February, but we also had a very dry summer, which led to the hosepipe ban,” said Mr Lambkin.

He said this may not happen every year, but this type of weather profile is what Met Éireann expects to see in the coming years.

This kind of data is essential for future planning, according to Mr Lambkin. Met Éireann, in conjunction with other bodies such as the EPA, is able to provide climate services in the form of reports to various agencies and Government bodies to ensure they are equipped to deal with climate issues.

‘Performance enhancing drug’

Mr Lambkin said that there have always been extreme weather events and there always will be but, according to studies from the UN's World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), climate change appears to be making these events more severe.

“A warmer atmosphere can enhance these events and make them more extreme. Global warming is like a performance enhancing drug for these extreme weather events,” he said.

However, the number of deaths attributed to these extreme weather events is reducing, according to a report from September compiled by WMO.

Mr Lambkin said this is because much of the world now has more advanced weather warning systems in place. In Ireland, Met Éireann employs a colour-coded warning system of yellow, orange and red alerts.

“If people know that extreme weather events are coming, they can prepare for it... this is saving lives globally.”

Mr Lambkin said Ireland is fortunate to be so well covered by meteorological stations, but other areas do not have access to the same data.

“Africa, low-lying states and island states are poorly covered for weather observations. In order to keep track of climate change, we need to keep track of how the weather is changing globally.”

More accurate picture

This is why a new initiative called the Global Basic Observation Network is being launched by the WMO at Cop26. It aims is to increase the number of weather and climate stations across the Earth in order to get a more accurate picture of how climate change is happening.

Mr Lambkin added that once these countries have access to more weather data, they can implement their own early-warning weather systems to protect citizens.

Reducing emissions has also been a key topic discussed by world leaders at Cop26. Mr Lambkin says currently countries can measure how much they are reducing emissions, but that it was important to examine how these reductions impact on the climate and if new policies are working.

“We need to find out which of these policies are having a positive effect... and hopefully see things levelling off, and the flattening of the climate curve, so to speak,” he said.