Wednesday 23 October 2019

Hurricane Lorenzo's path strikes concern as Ireland likely to see an increase in 'intense' storms linked to climate change

High seas and winds pictured on Howth pier. Picture Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin
High seas and winds pictured on Howth pier. Picture Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin
A map shows where the effects of Hurricane Lorenzo will reach. Photo: Alistair Grant Freelance / National Hurricane Center
Rachel Farrell

Rachel Farrell

EXPERTS have warned that Ireland is likely to see more storms and weather events as a result of the globe's changing climate.

Hurricane Lorenzo, the most northern category-5 hurricane recorded in the Atlantic, may hit Ireland later this week after weakening to a tropical cyclone.

Lorenzo could hit Ireland with strong winds and very heavy rainfall on Thursday and Friday and is being carefully monitored by meteorologists as concerns continue over its potential impact.

It is the most powerful storm ever monitored so far north this early in the hurricane season but "more intense" weather events are expected to hit Ireland more frequently in years to come.

In the past, hurricane-force winds have been recorded on average approximately once every eight years in Ireland, according to Met Éireann.

But the National Directorate for Fire and Emergency Management, working under the Department of Housing, as well as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have both reported on the future risk of a link between climate change and an increase in hurricane-style storms.

The EPA, who are currently monitoring the build-up of climate change gases in Ireland, said that Ireland is likely to see more weather events similar to Storm Ophelia last year.

"The modelling associated with climate change impacts predicts an increase in the frequency of such storm events for Ireland," an EPA spokesperson told Independent.ie.

Ophelia, which struck Ireland in October 2018, was described as a "rare" hurricane that brought major storm damage to Ireland and a record number of power outages, with over 300,000 households without power for a period during the storm.

In response to the government's Climate Action Plan, published in July this year, the EPA noted that extreme events, such as severe flooding, droughts and heat waves, can have "important socioeconomic consequences".

Heavy rain on Grafton Street in Dublin
Pic: Stephen Collins/Collins Photos
Heavy rain on Grafton Street in Dublin Pic: Stephen Collins/Collins Photos

"Extreme weather events give rise to the most immediate and severe impacts for natural and managed systems, such as agriculture and forestry, as well as infrastructure and economic and societal disruption," it said.

"Changes in the number or nature of extreme weather events are therefore of concern."

Met Éireann are working under the framework published by the World Meteorological Organisation’s Task Team, who have produced two reports on climate change and tropical cyclones.

The reports found that tropical cyclone intensities globally will like increase by 1 to 10pc according to model projections for a 2C global warming.

"This change would imply an even larger percentage increase in the destructive potential per storm, assuming no reduction in storm size," it said. "Storm size responses to anthropogenic warming are uncertain."

Under this modelling, projections from Irish forecasters indicate an increase in 1-1.6C in mean annual temperatures with concerns over the 3mm global increase in sea levels.

"Rising sea levels around Ireland would result in increased coastal erosion, flooding and damage to property and infrastructure," Met Éireann said.

In 2015, the Department of Housing published a report that said that the potential impacts arising from climate change include "more intense storms and rainfall events with increased probability of surface water".

"Reflecting trends at global level, Ireland’s climate is changing, including changes in our average temperature and rainfall intensity," the report said.

"Adaptation to the adverse effects of climate change is vital in order to respond to those impacts that are already happening, while at the same time preparing for future scenarios.

"Effective actions are needed to reduce vulnerabilities to the negative impacts, take advantages of opportunities that may arise and increase social, economic and environmental resilience."

Met Éireann officials admitted they were "seriously concerned" about the eventual track of Lorenzo, which is expected to head either north towards Iceland where it will pass offshore off Ireland's west coast, or east towards the Bay of Biscay and southern Europe.

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