Heatwaves are set to become much more common in Ireland

2 Jul 2024

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A study led by Maynooth researchers has found that record-breaking extreme heat is 57 times more likely now in Ireland than 80 years ago.

Ireland’s likelihood of experiencing extreme summer temperatures and heatwaves has risen due to the climate crisis, according to a new study.

Conducted by researchers at Maynooth University (MU), the study developed a new model to predict the frequency, magnitude and spatial extent of extreme summer temperature events in Ireland.

It also estimates that the chances of reaching a temperature of more than 34 degrees Celsius – a value not yet recorded in Ireland – changed from a 1 in 1,600-year event to a 1 in 28-year event between 1942 and 2020.

“We found that spatial heatwave events over thresholds that are critical for society have become much larger, having at least doubled in extent for 28 degree Celsius, with this change increasing at more extreme temperatures,” said Dr Dáire Healy of the Hamilton Institute at MU.

Healy co-led the study with colleague Prof Andrew Parnell, in collaboration with Prof Peter Thorne of the MU’s ICARUS Climate Research Centre and Prof Jonathan Tawn of Lancaster University.

Profound implications

According to a recent report from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Ireland looks set to underperform in almost all sectors when it comes to reducing emissions.

The EPA said that Ireland could reduce its emissions by up to 29pc by 2030 compared to 2018 – if all the country’s planned climate policies and measures are implemented. However, this result would be significantly short of Ireland’s ambition to reduce emissions by 51pc – the goal listed in Ireland’s Climate Act.

Meanwhile, the climate crisis continues to have an impact across the world. A report in April reveealed that last year saw record-breaking extreme weather events across Europe as a result of human-induced global heating.

The latest findings from the study led by MU were detailed in a recent paper and were presented to the Royal Statistical Society early last month.

According to Parnell, the findings underscore the urgency for societal adaptation to extreme temperatures, which have profound implications for public health, agriculture, economic stability and infrastructure resilience.

“We are often focused on average changes, and particularly focus on the Paris Climate Agreement of 1.5 degrees Celsius,” Parnell said. “What we have shown here is that the changes in extremes are much larger than the changes in the average and are something we should be seriously concerned about.”

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Vish Gain is a journalist with Silicon Republic

editorial@siliconrepublic.com