Met Éireann to get €3m to accurately predict where flooding will occur
‘It’s about whether or not Mrs Kelly will have a half metre of water in her kitchen’
Dr Gerald Fleming, Met Éireann’s head of forecasting: “We don’t have an operational flood forecast centre which would allow us to predict flooding in any precise way.”
Met Éireann is to receive €3 million from the budget to update its flood warning system which has been described by its head of forecasting as “primitive”.
The National Flood Forecast and Warnings Service was first mooted following flooding in January of last year.
Dr Gerald Fleming, Met Éireann’s head of forecasting, said Ireland lags behind many European countries in its flood-warning system despite the State’s wet climate and the threats posed by the effects of global warming.
“We don’t have an operational flood forecast centre which would allow us to predict flooding in any precise way. We can’t do that at this stage,” he said. “We can’t for instance predict what level the Shannon at Athlone will rise to in a week’s time. Ultimately, it’s about whether or not Mrs Kelly will have a half metre of water in her kitchen or not.”
Currently, while Met Éireann can, with reasonable accuracy, predict heavy rain that might lead to flooding, it is not able to forecast the exact locations where the floods will occur.
He said the money would be used to set up a unit headed by a chief hydrometeorologist, a specialist in the transfer of water and energy between the land surface and the lower atmosphere.
While Met Éireann has forecasting expertise and the Office of Public Works understands flooding, nobody yet has combined the expertise in Ireland, Dr Fleming said.
“You have to create a whole new person to do this who is part meterologist and part hydrologist,” he said.
The new unit will map in detail the characteristics of the rivers in the State that are prone to flooding.
“Every river catchment has its own particular shape and characteristic. How each reacts when rain falls into it is different,” Dr Fleming added.
Met Éireann will also receive funding to modernise and automate its meteorological observations at the State’s four main airports over the coming years.
The money will be used to put in instrumentation at either end of the runways so pilots will get a more accurate reading as to wind speeds when their plane lands.
Currently wind speed monitors can be as much as 500m away from where a plane lands.
The equipment will be put into Dublin, Cork and Shannon airports along with Casement Aerodrome.
The equipment has to be put in to meet the EU’s EASA (European Aviation Safety Agency) regulations due to come into force in 2020.