Outlook is gloomy: 10 more wet summers on cards
TEN more years of wet summers are on the cards, climate researchers have warned, as experts have discovered that the North Atlantic is in the midst of a rare weather cycle that increases the prospect of rain during the season.
Since the cycle began in 2007, six of the past seven summers have been wetter than average, the British Met Office has found.
Met Eireann – which does not carry out long-term forecasts – has left some room for hope for Irish weather-watchers.
Responding to the predictions of a decade of gloom forecast across the Irish Sea, a spokeswoman told the Irish Independent: "We certainly haven't issued anything like that (warning) ourselves."
She said that Met Eireann forecasts for no more than a week in advance and it does not engage in seasonal forecasting like its counterparts in Britain.
Although the weather cycle, which could last a total of two decades, does not guarantee wet summers, it "loads the dice" in favour of increased rainfall each year.
The prediction of 10 more years of wet summer is based on the most recent occurrences of the cycle – known as Atlantic multi-decadal oscillation – in the 1950s, the early 1960s and in the 1880s.
"This is a really new and exciting finding," said Professor Stephen Belcher, head of the Met Office Hadley Centre, of the research by the University of Reading. "Up to 10 years from now the cycle could persist, and therefore there is a higher possibility of wet summers."
Climate change may be intensifying and could prolong the natural Atlantic multi-decadal cycle, but it is too early to say for certain, Professor Belcher said.
"Now we are beginning to unpick and understand, we can design experiments to understand whether climate change is playing a role.
"It could be, we just don't know – but we now have a clear research path to investigate this," he added.
The weather cycle is determined, in part, by the way the atmosphere and the North Atlantic Ocean exchange heat, which guides the jet stream.
"It's the pattern of warm and cold water, it's the contrast of the warm and the cold; when that sits in the right place beneath the jet stream, it can kind of steer the jet stream and influence where it goes," Professor Belcher said.