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Monday 10 December 2018

Return of drought conditions a 'real possibility' warn experts

Rain relief for the west this week but south and east still up to 80pc below normal levels

More dry weather in store
More dry weather in store

Siobhán English

Drought conditions could return to Ireland over the next two months, climate experts have warned.

"Seasonal forecasts for the coming two months show a real possibility of the meteorological set-up that led to the current drought returning and persisting," stated Professor Peter Thorne, Dr Simon Noone and Dr Conor Murphy of Maynooth University's Irish Climate Analysis and Research Unit (Icarus) last week.

"That doesn't mean such an outcome is certain, but if I was making decisions on critical infrastructure or how to manage the land I would be making them in this context right now for sure," Dr Thorne told the Farming Independent.

"The prediction for the coming two to three months is based upon the range of available seasonal forecast products. The drought is moving from a meteorological and vegetation drought into a more classical hydrological drought situation.

"Fields are, at least for now, green which may give a false impression of a return to 'normal'. However, rivers remain very low and this impacts the issue of supply for all users, be they public, services, industry or agriculture," he explained.

"We need to ensure resilience moving forward in water supply and water management, including future-proofing against possible climate change impacts on rainfall and temperatures. In the short-term we must grapple with the immediate challenge of the current drought."

Meanwhile, over 12mm (half an inch) of rain is expected to fall in parts of the south-west of Ireland tomorrow, Wednesday, but very little rain is forecast over the south-east - the area worst affected by drought - in the next seven days.

Soil moisture deficits remain high over east Munster and parts of Leinster, with growth continuing to be restricted, but elsewhere soil moisture deficits have reduced due to recent rainfall.

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However, they are still higher than normal. Rainfall totals in recent weeks have been well below normal, with the east and south receiving less than 20pc of normal, but the north and western coastal counties at around 30-50pc of normal.

The coming week will be unsettled with a spell of persistent rain later on Saturday clearing to showery rain on Sunday. However, overall totals are likely to be below normal in the east and south, with parts of the west and northwest close to or slightly above normal.

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