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

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

t comes after the driest July here in over 20 years, with just 45.8mm of rainfall, according to the Met Office.

Armagh Observatory Director Professor Michael G Burton said that while it had been “exceptionally dry”, there had also been instances of flooding, as seen in Co Londonderry last month. He believes this could continue.

“Although it cannot be said that any particular event is the result of global warming, it is certainly consistent with it because the warmer the weather gets, the more extremely hot days and more extremely wet days are to be expected,” 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 there are 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 in Northern Ireland has been similar to that in the tropics in recent years.

“While most of Northern Ireland has been dry, there have been other areas that have experienced the opposite, like the flash floods in Derry,” he said.

“It’s likely that those cases 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 parts.

“You would see similar events in Australia. I’m from Sydney and you can see these subtropical storms but the typical temperature of a hot day there is much hotter than Northern Ireland. However, Australia has had major flooding events in recent years, so there is a similar pattern.”

Professor Burton said the days of intense rain have only gotten worse over the years.

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

“The hotter days are getting hotter and the colder days are getting colder and therefore flooding is becoming the norm. But if we know these events are likely to happen, we need to heed the advice of weather forecasters and take the advice more seriously.

“If you live in a low-lying area and the weather forecast says there’s a risk of flooding or extreme rain, you need to take every possible precaution.”

While there are a number of flood defense programs in place here due to the flooding of recent years, Professor Burton said there was “no easy solution”.


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

“If you stop flooding in one place, flooding can happen elsewhere. Unfortunately, there is no easy solution to this problem as it depends on the environment of each area,” he said.

“We as a civilization must be aware that we have to live with this as a result of global warming.”

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

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

“In southern England, for example, we luckily avoided that in the recent heatwave because we are positioned further north.

“We’re fortunate that the extremes in Northern Ireland really aren’t that extreme and there are some advantages to being in Belfast rather than London in extreme heat.” Extreme weather in NI could happen more often due to global warming, says Armagh Observatory director

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