We're in for hot, dry summers and wetter winters, warn scientists
Published 26/09/2013 | 04:00
HOT, dry summer days and very wet winter months may become commonplace as forecasters map out Ireland's climate for the decades ahead.
Among the climate projections are that daytime summer temperatures are likely to rise by up to 2C, and winter night temperatures will also rise a couple of degrees.
This could mean extreme summer temperatures may exceed 35C by the end of this century.
The recent warm, dry summer just gone by may be a more regular occurrence, according to the in-depth analysis released by Met Eireann, 'Ireland's Climate: the road ahead'.
Forecasters, working with several universities in Ireland and Germany, the UK, Holland and the USA, found the weather patterns will most likely deliver wetter, milder winters and drier summers. It found the north of Ireland in particular will see milder nights during future winter months, with fewer frost and ice days.
But along with this pattern, incidents of heavy rainfall are likely to increase in frequency through to the middle of this century.
Ray McGrath, head of research at Met Eireann, said the report attempts to "get to grips with what our changing climate will mean" for the country.
The changing weather patterns will have knock-on effects on wildlife, public health, air pollution, waves and renewable energy.
The report found the milder winters will most likely reduce cold-related death rates among the elderly and frail, yet there may be increases in loss of life due to heat stress in the summer months.
The higher temperatures will affect the ecological system and could impact the numbers of Irish butterflies – as the insects respond quickly to changes in their environment.
The complex report found the impact was "difficult to predict" as butterflies do react positively to higher temperatures but it is possible "that any benefit of a warming climate may be overridden by habitat loss and change".
Warmer springtimes in recent years have had a "significant impact" on Irish wildlife as they have brought forward the timing of key elements of nature – including trees, birds and insects.
Scientists warned if the spring temperatures cause caterpillars to emerge before leaves on trees have unfolded than many will perish. This then has a knock-on effect on birds, as if they arrive after the caterpillars emerge then they will lose a vital food supply.
Waves will reach lower heights when they strike Irish shores – but during storms in winter and spring the heights the waves heights will likely increase.
Scientists calculated that by mid-century the level of rainfall during the winter months may rise by as much as 14pc.
It is now recognised there is an "urgent need" to prepare adaptation responses to the expected climate changes – such as coastal defences and changing policies.