Severe weather attributed to human impact

Local councillor Bill Slattery examines  the storm damage at the promenade in Lahinch, Co Clare, yesterday. Pic: Eamon Ward
Local councillor Bill Slattery examines the storm damage at the promenade in Lahinch, Co Clare, yesterday. Pic: Eamon Ward

The increased ferocity and intensity of storms that battered the Irish coast in recent days can be attributed to man-made climate change, says one of the country’s foremost experts on climate change.

Robert Devoy’s comments come after Lahinch and Doolin in Co Clare and Salthill in Co Galway suffered millions of euro of storm damage, with a four-ton rock being flung about 30m into the middle of a coastal road in Doolin.

In Dublin City, the highest tide ever recorded saw the Liffey burst its banks yesterday near the Guinness Storehouse. The East Link Toll Bridge also had to be closed yesterday. Tidal flooding warnings have been issued for Cork City for the rest of the weekend.

The professor of physical geography at UCC and technical consultant at Beaufort Research Laboratory, Prof Devoy said the greater wind speeds and flooding are “what we would expect from a warming climate caused by the impact of humans”.

Storms in late November, December, January, and again in the spring are part of established rain patterns in Ireland, he said. However, the nature of these storms is changing.

“Ten years go, there were warnings that weather patterns had gone outside the natural pattern of weather events and this is a continuation of that. We are fitting the models of a warming climate,” said Prof Devoy.

He added that, for the past 1,000 years, sea levels around Ireland and Britain rose by approximately 1mm-2mm a year.

However, in the past decade, a regional rise of 2mm-3mm has been recorded by satellite stations and tidal gauges.

Prof Devoy also pointed to 2012 as one of the wettest years on record, and to record wind speeds in December, such as the ‘mini tornado’ responsible for the roof lifting off Kent Railway Station in Cork.

“We have had some exceptional events in recent years and these exceptional events are becoming morecommon,” said Prof Devoy.

He called for further investment in weather monitoring in this country so that scientists can better chart patterns.

On Jan 16, UCC will hold a seminar on climate change, where members of the public can engage with researchers, scientists, and engineers who are experts in climate change.

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