24 August 2015

Climate is what you expect, weather is what you get.

While London melted in the summer heat, Dublin cosplayed as the worst flavour Squishee, ever.
Howth, Dublin, 5th July, 2015
One of the hardest things to get used to when travelling between London and Dublin is the weather. The two cities may only by 350 miles apart (or so, depending on whether or not the proverbial crow is using Google maps), but it is not unusual for London to be anywhere from 5 to 10C hotter (and yes, I used Imperial distance and metric temperature. I would also calculate the crow's weight in stones, obviously).

This "summer" (and I use the term very, very lightly in reference to Dublin) saw London hit 36.7C, the hottest July day on record in the UK. The same day in Dublin saw the thermometer skyrocket to almost 22C. In fact, according to Met Éireann last month was the coldest July in fifty years, the wettest in five years and and windiest since 1988 (though not necessarily all in the same place).

Shortly after 1pm on the 5th of July, four days after the record heat in London, I was trapped in my grandparent's house in Howth by the heaviest hailstorm my ninety year-old grandfather said he had ever seen. Looking out across Dublin Bay we watched as a proto-waterspout formed in front of us, making landfall and just missing the house as it passed up and over the hill. The path was covered in a thick carpet of white crystal slush, the size of each hailstone as remarkable as the quantity.

If you ever want to understand our historical propensity for drink and mournful tunes, I invite you all to spend a summer here.

A grand soft day in Ireland. 1:15pm, the view through a skylight.
Howth, Dublin, 5th July, 2015
In February 2014 Met Éireann released their report on the predicted impact of Climate Change on Ireland. The full report (.pdf) is well worth reading, but the key findings were that Ireland will see an increase of 1.5 to 2C by 2050, and increase in rainfall in the winter and significant reduction in the summer, stronger winter winds and weaker summer ones. The report summarises:
• The observed warming over the period 1981-2010 is expected to continue with an increase of ~1.5degrees in mean temperatures by mid-century; the strongest signals are in winter and summer.• Warming is enhanced for the extremes (i.e. hot or cold days) with highest daytime temperatures projected to rise by up to 2 degrees in summer and lowest night-time temperatures to rise by up to 2-3 degrees in winter.• Milder winters will, on average, reduce the cold-related mortality rates among the elderly and frail but this may be offset by increases due to heat stress during summer.
• Winters are expected to become wetter with increases of up to 14% in precipitation under the high emission scenarios by mid-century; summers will become drier (up to 20% reduction in precipitation under the high emission scenarios).• The frequency of heavy precipitation events during winter shows notable increases of up to 20%.• Changes in precipitation are likely to have significant impacts on river catchment hydrology.• The models predict an overall increase (0 to 8%) in the energy content of the wind for the future winter months and a decrease (4-14%) during the summer months.- Met Éireann, Ireland's Climate: The Road Ahead, p7

In this "best-case" scenario, Ireland seems likely to escape the worst extremes of Climate Change, and experts both national and international have labeled Ireland a 'lifeboat" nation, with a moral duty to aid those peoples whose own homelands are destroyed, to take in climate refugees fleeing rising sea levels, drought and extreme weather events.

However given the current political and social climate here it is virtually impossible to imagine Ireland opening up its arms to the wider world beyond. Today's bigoted taxi-driver rant is tomorrow's There-Is-No-Alternative government policy. It is not hard to imagine Direct Provision as the first pre-emptive shots in the coming climate wars, a precursor of Trump-like walls and Spike Island Lampedusas. The Ireland of a hundred thousand welcomes, wrapped up in razor-wire shamrock bouquets.

One thing for sure though, regardless of what happens, we'll still be complaining about the rain.


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