Get your wellies! Research is showing that Ireland may be headed for eight more summers of rain.
The summer of 2012 gave Ireland one of its wettest and coolest summers in decades, according to Met Eireann.
The meteorological service’s stations at Mullingar and Cork airports reported their wettest summers in 68 years and 50 years respectively, while most stations recorded their highest rainfall ever in June.
And it may be getting worse. Kieran Hickey, a geography lecturer at NUI Galway, believes that the wet summers Ireland is becoming accustomed to may continue until 2020. He bases his conjecture on research which attributes increased summer rainfall in northern Europe since the late 1990s to a warming of the north Atlantic Ocean.
“It’s more likely we will have more wet summers, though that doesn’t mean every summer will be wet until 2020,” Hickey told the Sunday Times. “The Irish are eternally optimistic about summer weather, but we are constantly disappointed.”
“The loss of the Arctic sea ice means more heat is going into the ocean, which will prolong the AMO’s current phase,” Hickey said. The Atlantic multidecadal oscillation (AMO), a natural cycle of changes in the Atlantic’s surface temperatures, has been in a warm, wet phase of a 70-year cycle that is not expected to end until the end of this decade.
Research on more than a century’s worth of data by the University of Reading, published in the journal Nature Geoscience earlier this month, showed that a shift in Europe’s climate in the 1990s — towards wet summers in the north and hot, dry summers in the south — correlated to a warming of the north Atlantic ocean to a level not seen since the 1950s.
“Because ocean temperatures are quite warm off Ireland, there is lots of evaporation, which tends to give us cloudy summers. We tend to have our sunniest months in May, June and September, because ocean temperatures aren’t quite as warm,” Hickey said.
Hickey went on to explain the importance of Ireland’s relationship with its jet stream. He said research suggests the AMO has played a role in the position of the jet stream, a band of air at more than 30,000ft that normally brings settled weather to Ireland during the summer by keeping rainstorms further north.
“The jet stream must be playing a role and the AMO is playing a role on the jet stream,” Hickey said. “If we could predict the mean position of the jet stream on a monthly basis, we could give seasonal weather forecasts, but that’s about a decade away.”