Climate change will vary in its degree and impact from location to location, so the scientific models that cover the whole planet don’t tell us very much about the regions where we live and plan our futures. Ireland’s government commissioned its weather service and the University College of Dublin to come up with a model just for its island nation, and then report on what it found.
That report – called by this article in the Business Post, “the first of its type” – was expected to forecast “reasonably significant changes” in the Irish climate by mid-century. Reading the specifics, as quoted below, I’d go along with the “significant” part. Not so sure about the “reasonably” qualifier, though.
The north and west, the reports finds, are likely to become wetter. The climate change models show that average temperatures are likely to increase by 1 to 1.4 degrees by mid-century and by as much as 33.5 degrees by the end of the century. The models tend to move towards greater uncertainty later in the century, as it is unclear how effective efforts to combat climate change will be.
While variations in average temperatures may seem insignificant, small changes can have huge effects on climate. Two degrees of global warming, it has been estimated, would give Finland a climate similar to that enjoyed by the south of France today. The south of France, meanwhile, would end up with a climate like North Africa’s.
Changes in climate are gradual, but they can cause significant differences within a relatively short period of time. For instance, the study finds that Ireland’s winters are no longer as cold as they were half a century ago – there has been an increase in temperature of about half a degree in the last 50 years.
Winter rainfall is expected to increase. The climate modelling predicts that, in the period 2020-2060, winters will be 5-10 per cent wetter than at present. By the end of the century, the increase in rainfall could be as much as 25 per cent above current levels.
Correspondingly, by mid-century, summer rainfall is predicted to decrease by 5-10 per cent, while by 2100, the decrease is expected to be 10-18 per cent.
Average wind speeds are expected to show small increases in the winter months, and slight decreases in the summer months initially, while, by the end of the century a general decline in wind speeds is expected.
Rising sea temperatures will lead to more intense weather systems, though many of these are expected to be at their worst to the north of Ireland. This country will see fewer but stronger storms, the report predicts.
Storm surges and waves at sea will get bigger, particularly on the west coast. An increase in storm surges of over one metre in height and a parallel increase in the height of waves is predicted.