Ireland will experience "huge increases" in temperatures over this century, according to a leading Irish expert on climate change. Average Irish August temperatures are projected to have increased by "two to three degrees Celsius by 2050, and by six to seven degrees Celsius by 2100", according to Prof Colin O'Dowd, director of NUI Galway's centre for climate and air pollution studies. The rises predicted are significantly higher than most current forecasts.
His warning comes as new research published yesterday by German scientists shows climate change will trigger more frequent and severe heatwaves in the next 30 years regardless of the carbon dioxide (CO2) we emit into the atmosphere.
The study, published in the journal Environmental Research Letters, predicts dramatic changes as soon as 2020.
Extreme heatwaves such as those that hit the US in 2012 and Australia in 2009 are projected to cover double the amount of global land by 2020 and quadruple by 2040. More-severe summer heatwaves will go from being essentially absent currently to covering about 3 per cent of the global land surface by 2040, according to the German study.
Lead author Dim Coumou, from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, said: "We find that up until 2040, the frequency of monthly heat extremes will increase several-fold, independent of the emission scenario. Mitigation can, however, strongly reduce the number of extremes in the second half of the 21st century."
Under a high-emission scenario, the projections show that by 2100, extreme heatwaves will cover 85 per cent of global land area and longer-lasting, severe heatwaves, about 60 per cent of global land.
The authors use different "emission scenario storylines" to plot the climate response to the "economic and development storyline". Increased heatwaves are predicted under both the most, and least, conservative CO2 mitigation scenarios.
Prof O’Dowd welcomed the findings, saying they “complement our recent similar findings from climate models that see huge increases in Ireland and other regions of Europe”.