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Hated last winter? New research suggests it's going to be the 'new-normal'

Going forward we can expect a sodden winter like that which has just passed once every eight years.

1/1/2016. Severe Weather Conditions Storm Frank causing havoc at Bray harbour in January Mark Stedman Mark Stedman

WE MAY BE just exiting the winter from hell, but new research suggests that horrible flooding and general climate upheaval is set to be the ‘new-normal’ for Ireland.

The study, by among others Dr Conor Murphy of NUI Maynooth’s Department of Geography, states that periods of extreme temperature, rainfall and drought will become commonplace in Ireland in the near future.

Using data stretching back 150 years, the investigating team  looked at the most extreme winters and summers on record here in an attempt to model the kinds of weather we can expect to deal with in the near future.

30/12/2015. Severe Weather Conditions Flooding at Thomastown, Co Kilkenny, December 2015 Eamonn Farrell Eamonn Farrell

The conclusions are sobering:

  • the likelihood of seasonal weather extremes has increased significantly since records began
  • The chances of a warm summer on a par with the warmest on record are 56 times greater than they were 100 years ago
  • Likewise, the chances of a winter as miserable as the worst on record have doubled in the last 150 years

Put a different way, 26 out of the last 30 years of this century are expected to be as warm as the hottest summer on record.

Or, more apocalyptically, the winter we’ve just been through is likely to be repeated on an eight-yearly basis. Oh dear… Climate change is real and knocking at our door it seems.

4/3/2016.Snow in Kildare. The Curragh Plains in Co Snow in Kildare last week Eamonn Farrell Eamonn Farrell

As the study says: “the ramifications of these changes are not to be taken lightly”.

Research has shown that exceptionally hot temperatures in an Irish context have a significant effect on the normal mortality rate in our temperate climate, while increasingly wet winters “imply a significant challenge for water resource management and agriculture”, a fact not likely to be lost on those Irish people who saw their homes and farms devastated by flooding last December.

Aerial Images captured by Air Corps personnel whil Flooding in Ballinasloe in January

“There is an undeniable need for us all to reduce our emissions and plan appropriately for climate change,” says one of the paper’s authors Dr Tom Matthews, previously of Maynooth and now at Liverpool John Moores University.

However, there’s a common perception that climate change is distant from people’s lives, and this reduces public engagement with the issue. The impetus behind this research was a desire to combat that.

“By contextualising climate change relative to extreme weather that people have observed in their own lifetimes, it is our hope that this research will provide a more tangible reference point for a wide range of audiences,” says Murphy.

Fingers crossed.

You can read the full report here.

31/12/2015. Severe Weather Conditions Inistioge, Co Kilkenny, December 2015 Eamonn Farrell Eamonn Farrell

7/1/2016 Severe Weather Conditions Flood plains on the River Barrow on the Kildare / Laois border, January 2016 Eamonn Farrell Eamonn Farrell

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