Heavy rains part of new weather pattern

LORNA SIGGINS Western Correspondent The Irish Times - Friday, November 20, 2009

CLIMATE CHANGE: THE SERIES of “massive” rain belts across Connacht this week are a foretaste of new weather patterns due to climate change, an NUI Galway lecturer has said.

Kieran Hickey, lecturer in geography, said it had been at least 20 to 30 years since there had been such a combination of heavy, highly intense and prolonged rainfall in the west.

“Whereas such an occurrence back then would be described as unusual, this is the pattern that we are going to see more of due to climate change,” he said.

Dr Hickey, who is author of Five Minutes to Midnight? Ireland and Climate Change, said warmer atmospheres tend to hold more moisture.

Over the past century, the north and west have recorded more days with heavier rain but there has been no clear pattern of change elsewhere on the island.

He quoted a recent study which found that there were 15 to 20 per cent increases in rainfall along the west coast, with smaller increases elsewhere and no marked change in Dublin’s rainfall over the past 40 years.

“An exacerbating factor in terms of how we cope is the number of housing estates built on flood plains since the last serious flooding in this region,” Dr Hickey said. “Flood plains by their nature relieve excess water, and we’ve built on them in spite of the evidence,” he added.

Weather expert Frank Gaffney said this week’s rainfall, with just over 60mm falling in Galway on Tuesday alone, is the heaviest for November since he began keeping records in 1966. The Irish Times - Friday, November 20, 2009