Irish summer storms are the norm, study finds

Review of climate over 142 years shows dry weather is the exception rather than the rule

Summers in Ireland used to be better, with all-day sunshine and never a drop of rain, right? Wrong. A major international weather study going back 142-years shows that summers here typically have plenty of storms and rain.

"This perception of wetter summers over recent years is really a return to more normal conditions, " said Dr Conor Murphy, a researcher at Icarus, the Irish Climate Analysis and Research Units, based at NUI Maynooth.

The north Atlantic constantly throws storms at us, some of them big enough to be referred to as cyclones.

These weather events dump buckets of rain on us, often enough to cause major flooding.

While we did have a three-decade interlude of halcyon days from 1961 through 1990 with far fewer summer storms, this was certainly not the norm when you looked at the 142-year climate record, Dr Murphy said.

“This is particularly the case in summer, when we see the greatest number of storms passing over this region.”

Wet, wet, wet

What we have had in recent years was pretty much the norm for Ireland and Britain back in the first half of the 20th century.

“We also find we have been in a cluster of the stormiest seasons in recent years,” he said.

“There was the winter of 2013 and 2014, the autumn of 2000, the spring of 1983 and the summer of 2012. In each of these we experienced severe flooding events.”

The record-breaking years, such as 2012 - the stormiest since at least 1871 - tended to have lots of cyclones, which are what bring the rain and make the summer dreary.

The number of these in a given year goes up and down, so looking at the rate of storms over 142 years helps to smooth out the bumps.

Multi-university research

So despite our impressions to the contrary, the number of storms in Ireland has not been on the rise, say researchers from Maynooth, Liverpool

John Moores University


Loughborough University


Details of their research are published in the International Journal of Climatology.

Even so, it will feel like there are more storms if we are returning to what the data tells us are more “normal” conditions.

We are in a “back to the future” scenario, Dr Murphy suggested, and one that might leave us more windswept and soaked to the skin than ever.