Severe weather in NI could happen more often due to global warming, says Armagh Observatory director

Global warming is causing more extreme weather in Northern Ireland, an expert has warned.

It comes after the driest July for more than 20 years, with just 45.8mm of rainfall recorded, according to the Met Office.

Armagh Observatory director Prof Michael G Burton said that although it was ‘exceptionally dry’ there were also instances of flooding, as seen in Co Londonderry last month. He believes this could continue.

“While you can’t say a particular event is the result of global warming, it’s certainly consistent with that, because as the weather gets warmer you can expect more extremely hot days and warmer days. more extremely humid,” he explained.

“As the climate warms, these extremes could become the norm. When there is more heat in the atmosphere, weather conditions can be more extreme and therefore you will have more thunderstorms.

During heavy rain in Co Londonderry, the DfI responded to over 350 flood-related calls and over 8,000 sandbags were deployed in just a few days.

Professor Burton said the weather seen in Northern Ireland in recent years is similar to that in the tropics.

“While most of Northern Ireland has been dry, there have been other areas that have seen the opposite, such as flash flooding in Derry,” he said.

“It’s likely that those instances in Derry were thunderstorms, which can increase as the temperature rises, and it’s very similar to what you can see in the tropics – you get huge downpours and very dry weather in other regions.

“You would experience similar events in Australia. I’m from Sydney and you can see these subtropical storms, but the typical hot day temperature there is much warmer than what we see in Northern Ireland. However, there have been huge floods in recent years in Australia, so there is a similar pattern.

Professor Burton said intense rainy days will become more severe over the years.

“Now, with the onset of global warming, this pattern will unfortunately continue,” he said.

“The hottest days will get hotter and the coldest days will get colder and so flooding will become the norm. But if we know these events are likely to happen, we need to heed the weather forecast advice and we need to take this advice more seriously.

“If you live in a low-lying area and the weather forecast indicates there will be a risk of flooding or extreme rain, you should take all possible precautions.”

While a number of flood mitigation programs are in place here due to flooding in recent years, Prof Burton said there was “no simple solution”.


Professor Michael G Burton, Director of the Armagh Observatory and Planetarium

Professor Michael G Burton, Director of the Armagh Observatory and Planetarium

“If you stop the water flooding in one place, it might flood somewhere else, so unfortunately there is no simple solution to this problem because it depends on the environment of each area,” he said. he declares.

“As a civilization, we have to be aware that this is something we will have to live with due to global warming.”

While these are issues we may have to live with, Northern Ireland’s positioning has a geographical advantage when it comes to extreme weather conditions.

“We’re lucky here to be far enough north that most of these extreme cases can be avoided,” he said.

“In the south of England for example, with the recent heat wave, we fortunately avoided this because we are positioned further north.

“We are lucky that in Northern Ireland the extremes are not so extreme and there are advantages to being in Belfast rather than London when there is extreme heat.”

Teresa H. Sadler