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Dublin: 12 °C Wednesday 8 April, 2020

Irish climate scientists are warning that the drought in Dublin is far from over

Researchers are warning that recent rains do not even begin to undo months of deficit.

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DESPITE RECENT RAINFALL, Dublin is still in the grips of its most intense flash drought since records began in 1850.

Scientists from Maynooth University’s Irish Climate Analysis Unit (Icarus) are warning that recent rains do not make up for months of shortfall and seasonal forecasts show that there is a real possibility of the drought persisting.

Dr Simon Noone, Dr Conor Murphy and Professor Peter Thorne explain in a blog post that there are numerous ways to measure a drought.

According to the Standardised Precipitation and Evapotranspiration Index (SPEI) – which takes account of water lost to plants and evaporation as well as a lack of rainfall – Dublin is experiencing its most severe drought on record.

The analysis tracked the index in three month periods. A normal SPEI reading is 0 while -2 represents extreme drought. A reading of -2.7 was recorded for the period from May to July. This put it fractionally ahead of the next most extreme reading, which was recorded in October 1995.

‘We are potentially far from done yet’

The researchers note that the two most extreme prior months occurred in the same year. This shows that drought can appear to diminish only to quickly return.

“We may well have had a week of rain (although even that in Phoenix Park amounted to only 47% of the long term monthly average rainfall for July), but that does not even begin to undo months of deficit,” they write.

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To make matters worse the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are forecasting below-average rainfall levels for August and September. This indicates that there is a real possibility of the weather conditions that led to the current drought returning and persisting.

“Don’t be fooled by a week of recent rains. We are potentially far from done yet,” the researchers said.

Earlier this week Irish Water said the water supply in Dublin could run out in 70 days. The company said it has been “closely monitoring” water levels in the Poulaphuca Reservoir since the drought began.

The reservoir previously had enough water for about 150 days, something Irish Water described as “a healthy position”.

A hosepipe ban and other water restrictions remain in place throughout the country. More information on how to conserve water can be found here.

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Ceimin Burke

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