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Dublin: 5°C Friday 21 January 2022

Last winter was the stormiest ever on record for Ireland

Climatologists have concluded that both the frequency and intensity of the storms makes them unique in 143 years.

Lahinch, Co Clare on 1 February 2014
Lahinch, Co Clare on 1 February 2014
Image: Niall Carson/PA Wire

THE COUNTRY IS still suffering the legacy of last winter’s storms and floods with homes, businesses and infrastructure trying to recover their losses.

Insurance companies processed millions of euro worth of claims and around 50,000 households can’t afford or are not covered by house insurance because they live in flood-prone areas – a situation so dire that the-then Environment Minister Phil Hogan mooted a one per cent insurance levy in March of this year to pay for repairs.

To cap the sense that late 2013/early 2014 featured some of the worst weather in years, Irish climatologists have now officially recognised that period as “the stormiest in 143 years”.

Researchers at NUI Maynooth’s Irish Climate Analysis and Research Units (ICARUS) worked with Loughborough University in the UK to conclude that the type of storms we saw in winter 2013/2014 are unmatched in long-running climatological records that go back for Ireland to the winter of 1871/1872.

That is not to say that last winter had the most storms in those years – the first winter of World War I, 1914/15, might hold that record – but the datasets show that the storms of this past winter had the worst combination of frequency and intensity on record.

There were some warning signs even last summer. Remember this July storm? (Clerys iconic store in Dublin shut for months because of it):

The seemingly endless parade of gales, downpours and resulting floods continued beyond the New Year:

Source: Read report here...

Few, if any, places in Ireland escaped:

Source: Read report here...

The southwest coast really took the brunt early on:

Source: Read report here...

Winter weather Feb 1st Lahinch, Co Clare on 1 Februa Source: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Parts of Limerick city were devastated:

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Source: Read report here...

It will certain live on in popular memory:

Dr Tom Matthews, lecturer in Geography at NUI Maynooth, said that understanding the severity of the storms was vital as “such destructive weather events are of tremendous societal significance”.

The weather was affected by the formation of cyclones over the North Atlantic Ocean, and they travelled east towards Ireland and the UK. Shaun Harrigan of ICARUS said:

The work increases confidence in the use of long term datasets employed for understanding patterns of storminess over Ireland and the UK and will make an important contribution to further work in this area.

Their research will be published in the September issue of the Nature Climate Change journal.

Cork City is to get new flood defences but the scheme is not quite ready yet>

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