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Friday 19 September 2014

Storm clouds gather as effects of climate change intensify

Treacy Hogan

Published 22/11/2012 | 05:00

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IRELAND'S weather is going to get even wetter, warmer and stormier as climate change intensifies, a major new report forecasts.

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Stronger storms along the west and east coasts of Ireland – but not the south – are also predicted in a report published by the European Environment Agency (EEA).

As the strength of storms increases, so too will the clean-up costs.

But it's not all bad news as rising sea temperatures off Ireland may lead to an influx of fish species more familiar in warmer southern climates.

The growing season for several crops has lengthened and this is projected to continue, alongside the expansion of warm season crops.

The report, ' Climate Change, Impacts and Vulnerability in Europe 2012', finds that higher average temperatures have been observed.

There has also been increased rainfall in Ireland and the rest of northern Europe.

This has coincided with the Greenland ice sheet, Arctic sea ice and many glaciers across Europe melting, snow cover decreasing and most permafrost soils warming.

Extreme weather events such as heat waves, floods and droughts have caused rising damage costs across Europe in recent years.

While more evidence is needed to discern the part played by climate change in this trend, growing human activity in hazard-prone areas has been a key factor, the report concludes.

Key findings include:

• While rainfall is decreasing in southern regions, it is increasing in Ireland and the rest of northern Europe.

• The last decade was the warmest on record in Ireland, with land temperature 1.3° C warmer than the pre-industrial average.

• We could be 2.5-4° C warmer in the later part of the 21st Century, compared to the 1961-1990 average.

Climate change is projected to increase river flooding as temperatures rises intensify the water cycle.

• Sea levels are rising, raising the risk of coastal flooding during storms.

• Global average sea levels have risen by 1.7mm a year in the 20th Century, and by 3mm a year in recent decades.

It is likely that 21st Century sea-level rise will be greater than during the 20th Century.

According to the EEA report, future climate change is expected to add to this vulnerability, as extreme weather events are expected to become more intense and frequent.

Record

The Arctic is warming faster than other regions. Record low sea ice was observed in the Arctic in 2007, 2011 and 2012, falling to roughly half the minimum extent seen in the 1980s.

According to the report the melting of the Greenland ice sheet has doubled since the 1990s, losing an average of 250 billion tonnes of mass every year between 2005 and 2009.

Glaciers in the Alps have lost approximately two-thirds of their volume since 1850 and these trends are projected to continue.

And rising temperatures may make parts of Europe more suitable for disease-carrying mosquitoes and sandflies.

The pollen season is longer and arrives 10 days earlier than 50 years ago, also affecting human health.

Plants are also flowering earlier in the year, while in freshwater phytoplankton and zooplankton blooms are also appearing earlier.

Other animals and plants are moving northward as their habitats warm."

"If European societies do not adapt, damage costs are expected to continue to rise," according to the report.

Jacqueline McGlade, EEA executive director, said: "Climate change is a reality around the world, and the extent and speed of change is becoming ever more evident.

"This means that every part of the economy, including households, needs to adapt as well as reduce emissions."

Irish Independent

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