Heatwave is officially over
THE heatwave that scorched the country for two-and-a-half weeks is over – but temperatures will remain in the 20s for weeks to come.
The bank of high pressure that brought temperatures close to 30C is moving on, rounding off a period that saw weather warnings and even drought. Violent thunderstorms are expected to bring a dramatic end to the heatwave, the longest for almost two decades.
Met Eireann's weather station at Shannon Airport was hotter than Freeport in the Bahamas at 29.3C on Saturday, but such highs are unlikely to happen again for quite some time.
"The heatwave is officially over," said Met Eireann forecaster David Rogers.
The longest-running spell of hot weather since 1995 saw the mercury soar into the high 20s over six consecutive days last week.
Met Eireann said Saturday was the sixth day over 29C, compared with the last good summer of 2006, which had three days just short of 30C.
The tourism and hospitality industries have enjoyed an estimated €20m-a-day bonanza, and will by buoyed by the fact that temperatures will remain warm.
For those facing water shortages and hosepipe bans, thunderstorms and showers this week will bring some welcome relief.
Gardeners have been desperate for rain since an official drought was declared at the end of last week following 15 continuous days of dry weather.
One-third of the country was experiencing major problems with water levels as the drought continued into the weekend.
The heatwave has also been touched by tragedy, with the worst weekend on record for drownings as three people lost their lives in Irish waters since Friday.
Eleven people have drowned in the past month and there were countless accidents and near-misses. The Irish Coast Guard was inundated with calls.
Irish Water Safety spokesman Rodger Sweeney said he feared even more drowning incidents before the warm spell ends.
"We need a change in attitude towards the water and how we view safety," he said.
Now that the heatwave – defined as five consecutive days where maximum temperatures are five 5C above the average – is expected to draw to a close, sun-worshippers can say goodbye to days of wall-to-wall sunshine and sizzling temperatures.
It will still remain moderately warm – in the high teens to mid-20s – for the coming week. And it will still remain relatively mild at night, with temperatures in the mid-teens, added Mr Rogers.
Met Eireann said humidity would soar and trigger thunderstorms from today until Wednesday, with temperatures easing to 23C.
Sticky nights of around 17C mean there will still be concern for vulnerable people – the elderly, sick and young babies – as it is more difficult for their bodies to recover from heat stress.
"Monday will be warm and humid, with the likelihood of a few heavy and thundery downpours," said Mr Rogers. "It will become more unsettled on Wednesday with showers at times, some of which will be thundery."
Britain has recorded even higher temperatures than Ireland, with last Wednesday at Hampton waterworks, south west London, seeing highs of 32.2C.
But the high-pressure system that had Ireland and Britain basking in sunshine for the past two weeks is being nudged out by a lowering of pressure over the Atlantic.
Ireland is not likely to see the freak temperatures expected in Britain, according to forecasters. Instead, it is likely to be first in line for clouds moving in from the Atlantic.
"It won't be completely cloudy – there will be some warmer temperatures during sunny breaks, but it won't be anywhere near what it has been," said Mr Rogers.