Catchment News

The Status of Ireland’s Climate, 2020: Ireland is warmer and wetter in recent decades

| in News, Research, Science, Stories

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Met Éireann (MÉ) and the Marine Institute (MI) have published a report on The Status of Ireland’s Climate. This is the second comprehensive analysis of essential climate data collected in Ireland. It confirms and updates findings from the 2012 report and details how global changes are being reflected in our atmosphere, oceans and our landscape. 

What does it tell us?

  • Long term observations in Ireland provide important insights on the causes and consequences of Climate Change
  • Increases in atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide have been observed in Ireland, and reflect the increasing global levels of these key drivers of global warming
  • Global warming has resulted in Ireland’s climate becoming warmer and wetter
  • Sea level, acidity, and temperature have increased, resulting in changes in Ireland’s ocean ecosystems
  • The size of the land area covered by artificial surfaces and forest in Ireland have increased since 1990 while there is an observed decrease in wetland areas
  • Ireland’s ocean and terrestrial ecosystems are responding to these changes, resulting in changes in ocean species and a longer growing season on land.

Climate observations provide the basis for our understanding of the realities of climate change here in Ireland, in Europe, and globally. As a Party to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, and the Paris Agreement, Ireland has committed to carry out the range of climate observations outlined in this report. These data enable bodies such as the IPCC to carry out their analysis of global changes. Importantly, they are needed to inform effective responses to the changes that are happening here in Ireland.
Today’s report brings together the evidence of the changes that have occurred across Ireland’s environment, from both long term detailed measurements on our land and in our oceans and atmosphere and from linked data from satellite observations from programmes such as Copernicus.

Laura Burke, EPA Director-General

Key findings from the report

Atmosphere

  • The annual average surface air temperature in Ireland has increased by over 0.9oC over the last 120 years, with a rise in temperature being observed in all seasons.
  • Annual precipitation was 6 per cent higher in the period 1989 to 2018, compared to the 30-year period 1961 to 1990.
  • The concentration of the main Climate driver: greenhouse gases – carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide – measured in Ireland, continued to increase since 2012 with long term implications for our climate.

Oceans

  • Satellite observations indicate that the sea level around Ireland has risen by approximately 2-3mm per year since the early 1990s.
    Measurements in the surface water to the west of Ireland indicate an increase in ocean acidity which is comparable to the rate of change in oceans around the world.
  • The average sea surface temperature measured at Malin Head has been 0.47ºC higher over the last ten years compared to the period 1981-2010.

Land

  • There is an increase in river flows across most of Ireland since the early 70s. However, there is evidence in recent years of an increase in potential drought conditions especially in the east.
  • Land cover observations since 1990 show increases in the areas covered by artificial surfaces and forest whilst there is a decrease in wetland areas.

The report also identified that progress has been made in several areas of Ireland’s observation infrastructure, resourcing, analyses and co-ordination, since the 2012 Climate status report. Nonetheless, further action is needed to ensure the national climate observation system is fit for purpose for the coming decades. This includes continued maintenance of existing climate monitoring programmes and infrastructure, the transition of climate observations to long-term sustainable programmes, and investigate potential to monitor essential climate variables not currently observed in Ireland.

As an island on the western boundary of Europe facing the Atlantic Ocean, Ireland is ideally positioned to measure and assess ongoing climate change. The first Status of Ireland’s Climate report was published in 2013. This second status report provides an update, incorporating new datasets and analyses as well as reporting ongoing climate observations over the last 7 years.

As citizen’s in Ireland and around the world are now seeing the impacts of Climate Change, through evermore extreme weather events, fires and flooding etc; high quality observations of the climate are crucial to help inform society’s response to the Climate Emergency. Scientific long-term monitoring of the climate underpins climate research and the development of climate services which support policy making and decision making in the face of the urgency of the climate crisis.
The Status of Ireland’s Climate report not only includes invaluable data provided to GCOS as Ireland’s contribution to the global climate monitoring effort but also informs development and improvement of national climate monitoring infrastructure to provide ever better understanding of our climate system and to optimise national climate monitoring capacity. This long-term climate monitoring allows us to best compare changes occurring in Ireland’s climate to those across Europe and the rest of the world and to tailor our national response into the future

Eoin Moran, Director, Met Éireann

Long term climate monitoring programmes are needed to provide the evidence required to support national climate policy and action. It is through sustainable long term monitoring networks that we can measure the current state of our climate, and how much it has changed by, which in turn gives us an indication of how much more it is likely to change by into the future

Mick Gillooly, Interim CEO, Marine Institute

The scientific data monitored and collated by Global Climate Observation System (GCOS) Ireland represents Ireland’s long- standing contribution to the international scientific effort of providing the fundamental data needed to monitor our changing climate. GCOS Ireland collects scientific data on more than 40 Essential Climate Variables, identified by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), across atmospheric, oceanic, and terrestrial domains.

The data and analysis (which can be accessed through the Climate Ireland portal) are needed to support the development of sectoral and local adaption plans.

Learn more:

The Status of Ireland’s Climate, 2020

Summary brochure – The Status Of Ireland’s Climate, 2020

Climate Ireland, Ireland’s Climate Status Tool, provides interactive access to the Climate Status Report Ireland (CSRI) 2020.

Who is involved?

Quite simply, everyone in Ireland has a role to play. This can be from something as simple as making sure you don’t pollute your local stream, or a local community working together to establish a Rivers Trust to enhance the rivers and lakes in their area, to a Government Department or Agency helping a Minister implement a new policy to help protect and enhance all our water bodies.

This website has been developed and is maintained by the Environmental Protection Agency, and is a collaboration between the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Local Authority Waters Programme.

LAWCO

Local Authority Waters Programme

The Local Authority Waters Programme coordinates the efforts of local authorities and other public bodies in the implementation of the River Basin Management Plan, and supports local community and stakeholder involvement in managing our natural waters, for everyone’s benefit.

EPA

Environmental Protection Agency

The EPA is responsible for coordinating the monitoring, assessment and reporting on the status of our 4,829 water bodies, looking at trends and changes, determining which waterbodies are at risk and what could be causing this, and drafting environmental objectives and measures for each.

DECLG

Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage

The Department is responsible for making sure that the right policies, regulations and resources are in place to implement the Water Framework Directive, and developing a River Basin Management Plan and Programme of Measures that will be implemented after public consultation and sign off by the Minister.