Dublin is in the midst of its most severe flash drought in 168 years.
Ireland's climate has recently returned to its rainy, drizzly reputation after an astonishing summer heatwave, but scientists are warning that the drought is likely not yet over.
A recent article by Simon Noone, Connor Murphy, and Peter Thorne of the Irish Climate Analysis and Research Units hosted by the Department of Geography at Maynooth University cautions that "drought has begun to fade from the national conversation following a week of rain, but observations show that Dublin remains in the grip of one of the most intense flash droughts, probably the most, since at least the middle of the nineteenth century."
Ireland has maintained a record of precipitation since 1850, and in 2017 Noone's team used these records to craft a comprehensive drought catalog of the island of Ireland.
It revealed that "Ireland has experienced seven long drought rich periods over the period 1850-2015 impacting the whole of the island of Ireland; (1854–1860, 1884–1896,1904–1912, 1921–1923, 1932–1935, 1952–1954 and 1969–1977). But it is also possible to have ‘flash’ droughts, such as that in 2018."
As they explain, there are a number of methods for measuring drought and Ireland has typically relied on the Standardized Precipitation Index (SPI), because in Ireland, which has a moderate climate, drought is usually caused by a lack of rainfall as opposed to an increase in plant water evaporation due to extreme heat.
However, in the case of flash droughts, such as reland has experienced this year, the Standardized Precipitation and Evaporation Index is more useful, so this is the data they turned to.
To determine the severity of 2018's flash drought, they looked to Dublin's Phoenix Park, which has maintained a meteorological station since the early 1800s, making it one of the longest running in Ireland.
They used this record to craft an SPEI-3 (using a three-month drought index) and came away with some pretty worrying results. While a normal SPEI-3 has a value of 0, May - Jule of 2018 had an SPEI-3 of -2.70, the most extreme on record.
The second and third most extreme happened in October and August 1995 (-2.69 and -2.6 respectively), which shows that drought levels can improve for a time, only to worsen again. And with the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicting daily rainfall deficits for the season ahead, we could be looking at a more extreme case of 1995's flash droughts.
As they put it, "Perhaps more worrying still is the seasonal forecasts for the coming two months which show a real possibility of the meteorological set-up that led to the current drought returning and persisting. Don’t be fooled by a week of recent rains. We are potentially far from done yet."
Are you concerned about drought in Ireland? Or were you happy to have a warmer, drier summer? Share your thoughts in the comment section below or join the discussion on Facebook.