Wednesday 18 July 2018

We cope better with extreme weather now - but for how long?

Ireland has suffered severe weather events for a thousand years, but we cannot definitively blame climate change, writes climate expert John Sweeney

Enjoying the snow in the Phoenix Park, Dublin. Photo: Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin.
Enjoying the snow in the Phoenix Park, Dublin. Photo: Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin.

John Sweeney

It is not known who wrote the Annals of Innisfallen, most probably a monk in the 11th Century on the island of that name in the middle of Lough Leane, near Killarney. But whoever it was commented on a blizzard in 1028 as follows: "Great snow in the Lent of the above year for three days and three nights so that neither people nor cattle left their houses."

Almost a thousand years later, in the Lent of 2018, the exact same observation could have been made. Having come through what will probably emerge as a once-in-a-generation snow event, it is worth reflecting on where it fits with some of the more comparable events of the last century.

Comparisons are always difficult with snow events owing to differences in how societies are organised or adapted over time to better cope with them.

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