Be prepared for more freak weather -- experts
Published 26/10/2011 | 05:00
FREAK weather will become frequent as Ireland is battered by increasingly heavy rain storms, climate change experts warned yesterday
Flash floods which devastated the Dublin region and left two people dead will happen again, according to Professor John Sweeney, one of Europe's foremost climate change experts.
It has been 10 years since Prof Sweeney produced a report predicting that Ireland would experience unprecedented winter flooding.
And yesterday the head of ICARUS, the Irish Climate Analysis and Research Unit at NUI Maynooth, again warned that such floods were no longer one-off events.
"The frequency of these events has been increasing, and will increase in years to come," Prof Sweeney told the Irish Independent. He said the unprecedented rainfall was caused by oceans off Ireland getting increasingly warmer.
This, in turn, is causing more water vapour to be held in the warmer air above the oceans, blowing inland with heavier rainfall.
"This kind of extreme event will become more frequent as the climate changes, and the rainfall intensity will increase as the earth warms up and the air gets warmer," said Prof Sweeney.
"The events of the last 24 hours were exceptional. We had 80mm of rain, and that is the equivalent of a month's rainfall."
Prof Sweeney drew up the Government's climate change strategy report a decade ago -- which predicted savage winter floods hitting Dublin and other Irish cities and towns.
"Seasonal flooding may occur over large areas and persist far longer," the report stated.
It also warned that as sea levels rose coastal flood plains near cities were "especially at risk" when high tides and storms were accompanied by periods of intense rainfall "breaching the carrying capacity of drainage". This would lead to "the infrastructure of major cities such as Dublin, Cork, Limerick and Galway to be at risk of inundation by severe flooding".
Yesterday, it was clear from the scale of the flooding and the speed at which it occurred that similar events also had the potential to cause massive devastation and loss of life.