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Many shop workers in Midleton faced a difficult recovery effort after the flooding during Storm Babet Eamonn Farrell/
storm babet

Midleton flooding was made twice as likely to occur by climate change

A new study has examined the storm that hit especially hard in Midleton in October 2023.

THE HEAVY RAINS that caused damaging floods during Storm Babet were made 120% more likely to occur due to climate change, according to a new study.

A new study has examined the storm that hit especially hard in Midleton and other parts of Co Cork in October 2023.

It is the first time this type of research, known as weather event attribution, has been carried out into an extreme weather event in Ireland.

Around 100 homes in Midleton were flooded during Storm Babet, with roads submerged in water, shops destroyed, and a local hospital and many homes forced to evacuate for safety.

By comparing the world’s current climate conditions to pre-industrial times – before humans started to burn damaging fossil fuels at a large scale – the new study has found that climate change made the incident more than twice as likely than if human influence had not warmed the climate.

It also found that extreme rainfall on 17 and 18 October was 13% more intense due to global warming than it would have been otherwise.

Weather event attribution studies allow scientists to examine how much of a role climate change plays in a specific event like a flood or heatwave.

Researchers run a model to look at different scenarios of what the world would be like if human activities that produce vast volumes of greenhouse gas emissions were not occurring.

It allows them to study what the weather patterns would be like in a world without human interference on the climate, and whether a heatwave, a storm or a cold event, for instance, would be as likely to occur or as intense. 

The Journal reported in 2022 that Ireland had no State-backed plans at the time to conduct attribution research despite its usefulness for policymakers and the public to understand the impacts of climate change.

Met Éireann climatologist Dr Ciara Ryan has confirmed that this is the first study carried out in Ireland to specifically identify any links between one particular weather event and the role of climate change.

The new study was commissioned by RTÉ for a Prime Time investigation and carried out by Dr Ben Clarke of the World Weather Attribution research group, Maynooth University and Met Éireann.

Professor Peter Thorne of Maynooth University’s Icarus Climate Research Centre has said that it is “significant to understand” whether particular extreme weather events have been made more likely or more severe due to climate change.

“If we’re going to make sensible decisions, if we’re going to build a climate-resilient island, we need to know the answers to these questions,” he said. 

He said that there could have been an even “worse catastrophe” in this case if the storm’s aftermath had coincided with high tide rather than low tide.

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