How will climate change affect Ireland?

Analysis of meteorological data for Ireland shows that the climate has changed over the past 100 years. This change is similar to regional and global patterns as reported in the Integrated Panel on Climate Change Assessment Report 4  (IPCC AR4). The clearest trend is evident in the temperature records but there is also a trend towards more intense and frequent rainfall. Some of the indicators of climate change in Ireland include:

  • Ireland’s mean annual temperature increased by 0.7 degrees celcius (°C) between 1890 and 2004.
  • The average rate of increase is 0.06°C per decade. However, as Ireland experiences considerable climate variability, the trend is not linear.
  • The highest ten-yearly rates of increase have occurred since 1980, with a warming rate of 0.42°C per decade.
  • Six of the 10 warmest years have occurred since 1990. Our climate will continue to warm with possible increases of 3º to 4ºC towards the end of the century.
  • There has been a reduction in the number of frost days and a shortening of the frost season length.
  • The annual precipitation has increased on the north and west coasts, with decreases or small increases in the south and east.

These changes are reflected in ecosystem changes, with increase in the growing season and greater numbers of warmer latitude fauna being evident in Ireland and its surrounding waters.

Climate change impacts are projected to increase in the coming decades and during the rest of this century. Uncertainties remain in relation to the magnitude and extent of these impacts, particularly during the second half of the century. The greatest uncertainly lies in how effective global actions will be in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Predicted negative changes include:

  • the pace of sea-level rise, which has increased from 1.8 millimetres per annum (mm/a) in 1961 to 3 mm/a in 2005, resulting in a projected sea level rise of between 18 cm and 59 cm this century
  • more intense storms and rainfall events
  • increased likelihood and magnitude of river and coastal flooding; increased storm surges
  • water shortages in summer in the east, need for irrigation of crops
  • negative impacts on water quality
  • changes in the distribution of species, and possible extinction of vulnerable species requiring cooler conditions, e.g. the Arctic char
  • effects on fisheries that are sensitive to small changes in temperature, e.g. cod
  • increased frequency of wild fires and pest infestation.

(Source: EPA Climate Change Research Programme)

For more information on this topic please see the EPA climate change research programme

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