Sunday 4 December 2016

Wet, windy, sunny - another mixed-up Irish weather year

Greg Harkin

Published 26/12/2015 | 02:30

Air Corps officer Craig Cullen looks out over floods in Athlone, Co Westmeath. Niall Carson/PA Wire
Air Corps officer Craig Cullen looks out over floods in Athlone, Co Westmeath. Niall Carson/PA Wire
Mick Dunning stands in floodwaters around his home in Athlone after Storm Desmond. Frank Mc Grath
Suzanne Gibbons with a donkey after it was rescued from flooding in Killorglin, Co Kerry

Another 'once-in-a-century' flood and a wash-out summer made 2015 one of the worst years on record for many parts of Ireland.

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Met Éireann says unusually high winter temperatures and a dreadful wet summer were only tempered by a drier than usual autumn.

But memories of the dreadful summer weather will be lost when set against the new naming system for storms hitting Ireland and Britain - and few people will forget Storm Desmond smashing into the country and sending flood waters into homes across a dozen counties.

Rainfall at one Met Eireann station - Derrypark in Co Mayo - was recorded as a one-in-100-year event during Storm Desmond.

Start of the year

The year began with temperatures below the 20-year average, but some days saw near-record highs.

The highest temperatures of winter were mainly recorded during the first two weeks of January and on February 25, with the season's highest maximum temperature recorded at Ashford, Co Wicklow, on January 9 with 17.3C, its highest January maximum since 2003.

Last winter's lowest air minimum temperature was recorded on February 3 at Dublin Airport with -7.9C, while the lowest grass minimum was recorded on January 19 at Thomastown in Co Kilkenny, with -12.7C, its lowest winter grass minimum in five years.

Ireland's complex weather systems saw wide differences in winter rainfall, with Portlaw in Waterford getting just 45pc of its long-term average and having its driest winter since the station opened in 1994.

However, Greencastle in Co Donegal had 176pc of its average and, with 566.9 mm, its wettest winter since 2000 and its second wettest since the station opened in 1948.

Dublin Airport, with 253.3 hours of winter sunshine, had its sunniest winter since records began at the airport in 1942.

The season's highest gust was 76 knots (141km/h) reported at Mace Head, Co Galway, on February 23, while winter's highest 10-minute wind speed was recorded also on this date at Newport, Co Mayo, with 54 knots (100km/h).

Spring was wet and forgettable, with new records set at some recording stations - and May was particularly bad in the North West.

Malin Head, Co Donegal, reported the highest spring rainfall - all 324.8mm of it - since records began 130 years ago in 1885. It was also its wettest May since 1892. Nearly all remaining weather stations with above average rainfall had their wettest spring in six to 21 years. Spring mean air temperatures in March, April and May were below average with May particularly dull.

Dublin Airport recorded most sunshine during spring, with 550 hours, with Shannon Airport just two hours behind.

But it was windy in northern areas, with gale-force winds reported on 19 days, 13 of these during March. Only one report of storm-force winds was recorded during spring, on March 9, at Malin Head, where the season's highest 10-minute mean wind speed of 49 knots (91km/h) was reported. The season's highest gust was also at Malin Head during March, 65 knots (120km/h) recorded on the 31st.

It was wettest in Newport, Co Mayo, which saw 436.8mm of spring rainfall and driest at Oak Park in Sligo which had 169.2mm.

In summer, Knock Airport recorded 390.8mm of rain in June, July and August, 132pc of its normal rainfall.

The east faired best, with Casement Aerodrome station recording its driest summer since 2006.

In case you've forgotten how bad it was in July, the worst day was July 6, when Cork Airport station recorded the wettest day there with 41.3mm of rain in 24 hours.

Summer months

A few days earlier, the warmest day of the year - June 30 - was recorded in Dublin's Phoenix Park where the temperature reached 25.6C.

The extremes in the Irish climate can be seen in the lowest air temperature of the summer which was recorded on June 9 at Dublin Airport at just 0.7C, its lowest since records began there in 1942.

The most sunshine of the summer was 15.7 hours at Dublin Airport and Casement Aerodrome on June 10.

Warm autumn

In time-honoured fashion, children returned to school in September as autumn began with warm sunshine.

Ireland's most northerly point may have had its wettest year in a long time (400mm more than normal across the 12 months) but Malin Head was also the place to be in the autumn as it was the country's sunniest destination in September, October and November, clocking up 286.7 hours of sunshine. Knock - the country's dullest station in the autumn too - had 100 hours less of the sunny stuff.

Belmullet, also in Mayo, did have the autumn day with the most sunshine - 12.6 hours on September 8 - while Mullingar clinched two autumn records in 2015; the warmest day at 20.3C on September 10, and the coldest day on November 22, when temperatures were 27C lower at -6.7C.

Newport, in Co Mayo, was the wettest place to be - in the autumn - and on a single day. It saw 562.4mm of rain through the season, with 79.4mm of that falling on one day - September 11, its wettest day since 1968.

Storm Barney shook the country on November 17 with a wind gust at Shannon Airport of 128km/h, its biggest since 1984.

Clodagh came and went without any major issues. Then came December, the start of winter, with Storm Desmond and rainfall that would set new records. On Friday, December 4, the weather station at Derrypark in Co Mayo recorded an astonishing 106.4mm of rain, but it didn't end there

Over the 48-hour period from 9am on that Friday and 9am on Sunday, December 6, 195.9mm fell there, making it Ireland's wettest place this year.

Other stations in the Midlands, south, west and north-west, recorded between 85mm and 96mm that Saturday as flood waters poured into homes across 12 counties.

And Storm Eva arrived just before Christmas, bringing more wind and rain. Storm Frank - next on the weather forecasters' storm list - will be next and could arrive as early as next week, with more windy and wet weather expected.

Irish Independent

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