Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 23 September 2014

Wet, wet, wet...this is what summers will be like from now on

PORTRUSH, NORTHERN IRELAND - JUNE 30: Fans in the rain, some holding umbrellas wait on the 1st hole tee during Day Three of the 2012 Irish Open held on the Dunluce Links at Royal Portrush Golf Club on June 30, 2012 in Portrush, Northern Ireland. (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
East Belfast floods June 2012. Image submitted by Conor Dunn
Lisburn Road flooding tonight...

Get used to the summer wellies — Northern Ireland’s weather is getting wetter.

That’s the warning from the Met Office which says we are facing more torrential weather in the years ahead as climate change tightens its grip.

Professor Stephen Belcher, who heads up the Met Office Hadley Centre, yesterday briefed the Stormont environment committee on how our weather is set to change in the future.

He said Northern Ireland will experience an increasing average temperature, more rainfall and more serious flooding events. The weather expert also said we will just have to get used to wetter summers.

Rainfall is expected to increase here as climate change causes the atmosphere to hold more water.

On a wider geographical stage, there will be a trend towards hotter, drier summers, with very widespread, prolonged heatwaves increasing 20-fold. Climate change will double the odds of very hot summers, Professor Belcher said.

Those hot summers will, however, be interspersed with wetter summers, and the incidence of very wet winters will increase six-fold. This marks an overall trend towards extreme weather.

“If you take a run of 30 years you can expect more hot, dry summers, but we would expect about a third of them to still be wet,” Professor Belcher said.

“The headline for winters is warmer and wetter... but over a 30-year average you’d expect between a fifth and a quarter of winters to be very cold and dry.

“The broad message is warmer, drier summers, but unfortunately in the UK and in Northern Ireland we’re going to have to keep living with wetter summers.”

With the acceleration of climate change there are both opportunities and threats ahead, he said.

For example, one opportunity for Northern Ireland agriculture is the potential for an extended growing season and increase in crop yields. However, there is also a threat of more pests emerging.

“Another opportunity is that as our winters get warmer our heating demand reduces, bringing a reduction in fuel costs. But the cooling demand in summer could increase,” Professor Belcher said.

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