Floods and heat waves to increase in Cork

Floods and heat waves to increase in Cork
Flooding on Sheare's Street in 2009. Pic: Brian Lougheed

EXTREME weather events are expected to cause an increase in flooding in Cork by more than 100% and heat waves by around 50%, new research has found.

A study published in the Environmental Research Letters journal predicts extreme weather events from 2051 onwards and says Cork could be worst affected of 571 European cities.

The study shows the impact of flooding, heat waves and droughts and predicts increased heat waves for 571 European cities and further droughts, particularly in southern Europe.

Cork is predicted to experience a 50% increase in ‘heat wave’ days with increased temperatures of around 10 degrees Celsius.

Cork is already among the worst-hit cities for river flooding, according to the study and, under a high impact scenario, the amount of water per flooding event will increase by 115% - the highest of any city in the study.

Claycastle beach in Youghal during a heatwave in 2013. Picture: John Hennessy
Claycastle beach in Youghal during a heatwave in 2013. Picture: John Hennessy

Plans are already underway to build major flood defences in city to prepare for future flooding events.

Responding to the research, professor John Sodeau, of the Centre for Research into Atmospheric Chemistry in UCC, said:

“Ireland’s location as an island at the face of the Atlantic, with a large urbanised continent to our east and halfway between Greenland to the north and Africa to the south, is bound to experience complex weather and climate patterns. Burning fossil fuels puts more energy into the air and oceans.

“This increases the intensity and frequency of all events associated with our weather like rain, wind and sunshine,” he added.

“We are able to model and predict better what could happen to our climate system with increasing computational power.” “This approach gives ideas about the possible changes from historical observations of flooding, drought, number of heatwave days and temperatures.” 

The study, carried out by the University of Newcastle, also found - even in a low-impact scenario - that the number of heatwave days and their maximum temperatures will increase for all European cities.

The increase is set to go up from 2C to 7C in a low impact scenario and from 8C to 14C in a high impact scenario.

“How locations will be affected by these possibilities depends on just that, their location,” said professor Sodeau.

“Feet above sea level, rivers in locality, proximity to large land masses and oceans are all factors.

“So it is perfectly possible for somewhere like Cork that has wet weather often, hot days and heatwaves occasionally that these may become exaggerated as we put more energy into the air,” he added.

“If you think of flood, heatwave days, drought, temperature and storms as individual poker dice then normally you get what you throw, without cheating,” he explained.

“But with fossil fuel burning we are rigging the dice and it appears Cork is more likely to throw aces for both flooding and heatwave days by the newly published models.”

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