Thursday 13 December 2018

Storms and big freezes 'will be norm'

Extreme weather has cost the country €1bn in past five years – and it will get worse

A tree falls on a house in Kilcurry in Co Louth. Photo: Ciara Wilkinson.
A tree falls on a house in Kilcurry in Co Louth. Photo: Ciara Wilkinson.

EXTREME weather events such as floods, storms and big freezes that have cost Irish people more than €1bn in the past five years are going to become more frequent.

A stark warning on climate change, which is likely to bring freezing winters and scorching summers, was delivered by Met Eireann experts as storms battered the country.

Thousands of homes were left without power as gales of up to 130kmh blasted the coast, although Ireland was fortunate to escape the full brunt of the storm that claimed at least two lives in the UK.

After months of weather extremes – ranging from violent storms to deep freezes, to a summer heatwave – climate experts warned that the trends are set to worsen. Ray McGrath, of Met Eireann's research department, said "global warming" did not simply mean temperatures were going to go up.

"Temperatures are going to rise but not always in a linear fashion," said Mr McGrath. "We will still have very cold, bad winters in Ireland in the future but the trend will be for higher temperatures." He warned that Ireland's average temperatures had increased by 0.8C since 1900, but 0.5C of this had happened in recent decades.

Alongside this rise in temperatures, the average annual rainfall has increased by 5pc.

Global forecasting models show that Ireland is in line for a temperature increase of between 1C and 1.5C by the middle of the century (2035-2060).

Even if greenhouse emissions are limited, rain and winter snowfall could increase by up to 8pc. And if emissions continue to rise at the current rate, rain and snowfall could increase by as much as 14pc by 2041-2060.

By the same token, summer rainfall could fall by between 4pc and 20pc, depending on the greenhouse gas emissions between now and the middle of the century.

Addressing 150 delegates at a Teagasc conference in Ashtown, Co Dublin, the weather expert added that German studies suggest that rainfall will increase by 7pc for every 1C increase in temperature. "The models also give us an enhanced warning for extremes of heat and cold over the next century," he added.

Extreme weather conditions have already cost Ireland more than €1bn in damage to property, according to figures compiled by the Irish Insurance Federation and presented at the conference by Stewart Gavin of FBD. The 'big freeze' conditions of January and December 2010 cost Irish home and property owners over €591m, while floods in November 2009 and October 2011 cost a combined €371m.

The video attached shows a plane experiencing difficulty trying to land in extreme weather conditions in Birmingham.

Caitriona Murphy

Irish Independent

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