Tuesday 21 January 2020

Get out the brollies, bad weather to become norm

Paul Melia

Extreme weather leading to an increased risk of flooding will become more commonplace as climate change takes hold here, new research shows.

Average rainfall has increased by 10pc in the past 30 years in some parts of Ireland, and more than 50 bog bursts or landslides have occurred in the past century caused by extreme rainfall and "possibly compounded" by human activity.

The research from UCC, carried out for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), comes as the Government promises to spend up to €200m over the next four years on flood defences across the country.

Office of Public Works Minister Martin Mansergh said yesterday that up to €12m would be spent in each of the next three years on flood defence works in Galway, one of the worst-affected areas during the devastating floods that hit the country last November.

The report, 'Extreme Weather, Climate and Natural Disasters in Ireland', examined historic data stretching back to 600AD which recorded extreme weather events, including droughts and storms.

It also used modern records which showed maximum temperatures are getting higher and minimum temperatures lower across the country.

"In addition, there has been approximately a 10pc increase in annual rainfall over parts of Ireland since the 1970s," it said. "This is considered to reflect a climatic shift during the mid-1970s, and this shift is also evident in other records, such as river flow and evaporation.

"More than 50 bog bursts or landslides in peatlands have occurred since the early 1900s. These appear to have been caused by extremes in rainfall following dry periods and possibly compounded at times by human activities."

The research backs up international data that shows the planet's climate is changing and that human activity is to blame. More than 120 countries -- including oil-rich nations such as Saudi Arabia -- accept the data from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the UN body that bases its work on thousands of global scientists.

UCC researcher Paul Leahy said investment in defences would be necessary to prevent a repeat of last year's widespread flooding.

"There's a seasonal change in patterns where we get more rain in winter, and less in the summer. There's also a tendency to see more extreme heavy rainfall events in some parts of the country," he said.

"These changes have implications for infrastructure. Storm drains, sewers, roads all need to be assessed to see if they are able to cope with the extreme events."

Irish Independent

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