Sunday, November 22, 2009

Global warming and how it is affecting Ireland’s weather

Republican Politics, American Style
Published on July 24th 2008 in Metro Eireann By Charles Laffiteau

In today’s column I want to discuss one of our favourite subjects here in Ireland….the weather and the impact of global warming on it. As some of you may recall (or may not wish to given how awful it was) last summer was Ireland’s wettest summer in the last 10 years and one of the wettest in Ireland’s history. It was also the coolest summer since 2002, but having said that, it was still one of the 10 warmest summers in Ireland’s recorded weather history, with temperatures averaging more than a half a degree higher than the average for the 30 years from 1961thru 1990.
Fortunately for those of us living in Ireland this year, at the half-way point in July it appears we will be spared a repeat of last summer’s 60 straight days of rain, which stretched from mid-June thru mid-August until we got a bit of “Indian Summer” relief during late August and September. But for those of us living in Dublin and eastern Ireland the summer of 2007 was the most miserable that even the oldest natives can ever remember. Furthermore, the Poulter index, (a more scientific method of determining how good or bad our summer weather was because it uses a formula based on mean temperature, rainfall and sunshine at weather station to quantify Ireland’s summer weather) showed the lowest (i.e. miserable) value for Dublin since 1986 and the fourth lowest value for Birr since they began measurements there almost a hundred years ago.
What I and I’m sure many others living in Ireland are wondering though is this; was last summer just a freak of nature (an aberration if you will) or was it a sign of what we have to look forward to in the coming years as a consequence of global warming?
In an attempt to answer this question I decided to do a bit of research, some of it unscientific, but the vast majority of it was based on real, hard, factual data that it would be nigh unto impossible for anyone to dispute. To put things in perspective lets review what has occurred so far this summer if for no other reason than it would appear to support the contention that last summer was just an aberration rather than a consequence of global warming we can expect to see more of in the future.
Last summer was foreshadowed by a lovely warm April and early June sandwiched around a fairly miserable month of May. Of course it turned out May was a harbinger for what most of the rest of last summer became, wet and wretched. Thus far this summer has been almost the reverse of last in that April was quite cool and the first half of June was both cool and rainy, while May was the driest it’s been in the last 15 years as well as the hottest May Ireland has seen in more than a century. Since the past month has also seen nothing like the 60 straight days of rain we saw last summer from mid-June onward, one could make a reasonable though unscientific case that last summer wasn’t a consequence of global warming but was just a natural seasonal anomaly.
Unfortunately, a closer look at Ireland’s historical weather patterns based on scientific measurements and other factual data leads one to conclude that such is probably not the case however. When viewed from a much broader perspective based on decades of weather research data, last summer is likely to be repeated more often than any of us living here in Ireland would care to see. This is due to the fact that last summer as well as this summer both fit within a pattern that has recently emerged which shows that Ireland is both wetter and hotter than it was 30 years ago. Both of these characteristics, wetter and hotter, are the unnatural consequences of global warming for the Emerald Isle.
But the fact that temperatures have gotten warmer and rainfall has increased over what it was 30 years ago isn’t what people living here in Ireland need to be concerned about. It’s the other consequences that are linked to this changing weather pattern that should concern all Irish residents because dealing with them won’t be as simple as buying a few more umbrellas or some lighter weight clothing.
Our wetter climate will result in increased soil erosion throughout the island as well as an increase in flooding and the damage to homes and businesses that comes with it. Our hotter climate will also lead to water shortages in some areas of the country, particularly when strong high pressure systems settle over the country.
This past May was exceptionally warm, especially over the western half of the country and temperatures rose above 20°C in many places around the country during the second week in May. In fact both April and May were relatively dry except in parts of the west, even though March and June were wetter than normal in most areas of the country.
A wetter and hotter Ireland will also continue to experience more extreme forms of weather just as Ireland’s neighbours to the east in the UK and on the continent are also confronting with increasing frequency. Tornados, which are common in the lower latitudes of my native land, and extremely high non-tornado wind gusts, have become an increasing danger in European countries over the last 10 years. Right here in Ireland the highest wind gust in the last 50 years, 73 knots (135km/hour), was recorded this year at both Valentia Observatory on March 10th and at Belmullet on March 11th.
Believe it or not, this summer’s June downpours and storms also broke long-standing records around the country according to Met Éireann, even though twice as much rain fell in June of last year. Furthermore Dublin was struck with the strongest winds it has seen in almost 30 years dating back to 1980. Next week I will discuss some more consequences.

No comments: