Ireland is getting hotter, seas are rising and rainfall is heavier

  • Irish sea levels are rising, annual temperatures are increasing and rainfall is getting heavier across the island, according to the Status of Ireland's Climate report. 

    It found that CO2 levels increased by 18% in just 30 years, alongside a 6% increase in annual precipitation.

    Another recent report from the United Nations (UN) said that human activity is changing global climate in unprecedented and sometimes irreversible ways, adding that the report "is a code red for humanity".

    The Ireland 2020 report's data was much in line, urging a need to address these climate changes while building on long-term observation programmes and technology, and having a both a national and international understanding of the crisis. 

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    The Status of Ireland report was commissioned by the Environmental Protection Agency, Marine Institute and Met Éireann and was prepared by researchers at the MaREI institute in University College Cork.

    The work builds on a previous analysis that was published in 2013.

    The 234-page assessment draws on data from nearly 50 climate variables observed in atmospheric, oceanic and terrestrial environments. Its authors highlighted that it was essential to not only know likely future changes in Ireland’s climate, but to understand their pace.

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    “As citizens in Ireland and around the world are now seeing the impacts of climate change, through evermore extreme weather events, fires and flooding etc, high-quality observations of the climate are crucial to help inform society’s response to the climate emergency,” said Eoin Moran, director at Met Éireann.

    “Scientific long-term monitoring of the climate underpins climate research and the development of climate services which support policy-making and decision-making in the face of the urgency of the climate crisis.”

    Major report findings

    The island is heating up, with the average temperature having raised by 0.9 degrees Celsius in the last 120 years. Annual precipitation is also on the way up with a 6% increase in the last 30 years. Meanwhile sea levels have been rising by approximately 2mm to 3mm every year since the early 1990s.

    The amount of greenhouse gases in the air observed in 2019 have been at the highest since measurements begun, with carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide all showing increased levels.

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    Levels of CO2 were estimated to be 50% higher than those in the pre-industrial era, while nitrous oxide levels were 20% higher and methane was 170% higher.

    In the short term, CO2 levels in 2018 were 18% higher than they were in 1990 – an increase that was attributed primarily to increased fossil fuel combustion in the transport and energy industries.

    Some positivies to take away

    The report's findings did indicate possibility for change in the future (if acted upon now).

    Levels of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) have been falling since 2004, which was attributed to the Montreal protocol. Levels of atmospheric sulphur were down by 80% over a 35-year period due to regulation and technological advances, and nitrogen oxide emissions are also slowing primarily due to improvements at the Moneypoint power plant.

    The report also praised the improvements of environmental observational equipment, but stressed the need for long-term projects rather than once-off observations, and suggested the establishment of a climate data portal that would act as a gateway to information on the national climate observation infrastructure with accompanying repositories of observations, experts and events.

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