May 18, 2024
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By  Jack McCarron 

Red, orange and Yellow The colors each represent a different weather condition.

Orange flags indicate potentially hazardous or disruptive weather conditions, while red signals an extreme dangerous or destructive event.

Warnings that are not specific are often generalised warnings, and include entire counties.

Met Eireann issued 211 warnings about weather events so far in this year. This includes instances where a yellow weather alert was upgraded to an orange warning.

The status orange warning for Cork weather was issued last week. However, some of the business owners who were in the most affected areas of the county claimed that they weren’t prepared for the unexpected deluge.

It came in so quickly, the people inside were eating lunch and finishing. The next minute, it went in through the backdoor and flooded in. “The place is destroyed. All the furniture has disappeared,” Lynda said from La Trattoria in Midleton.

Met Eireann’s weather prediction model, the foundation of its forecasting system, has been deemed the most suitable for Ireland but it isn’t infallible.

Prime Time reported that Dr Alan Hally of Met Eireann, the Forecasting Services Manager at Met Eireann, said, “The model’s reliability depends on what event you are talking about.”

The models are not as reliable when it comes to forecasting something like a thunderstorm that people will have experienced in June. Models are less reliable in predicting something as simple as a June thunderstorm.

Eoin S. Sherlock, Met Eireann’s head of forecasting says the communication of severe weather warnings can be improved.

Flooding can be caused by “orange events”. Trees may fall and people could be injured or killed. “I think we need to educate the public more about how serious an orange event can be,” said Mr Sherlock.

Met Eireann’s infrastructure is continually being improved, according to Mr Sherlock. This will allow them to better predict weather and provide more accurate warnings for the relevant authorities.

The company also said it was working on a “impact-based alert” system.

This is not a forecast of the weather, but rather what will happen. “That’s international best practice,” said Mr Sherlock.

Met Eireann has focused on improving forecasting because of climate change. Extreme weather events, such as the floods in Midleton are likely to become more common in Ireland in coming years.

Sherlock: “We can predict with high confidence that we will see more extreme rain events. We’ve already seen this.”

Mary Bourke Associate Professor at Trinity College Dublin’s Department of Geography echoes the same sentiment.

Our models predict that we will have fewer storms but more rainfall intensity when this happens,” said Dr Bourke.

Our wetter seasons has already been extended. Floods have been occurring earlier in the year and are continuing longer. Flooding is expected to be more common for many people.

On Monday, flooding also struck the village Inistioge of Kilkenny. Flooding was caused pluvially, which means it was due to falling rain.

Inistioge’s river Nore did not burst it’s banks like the Owenacurra River, in Midleton. This means that the flooding was less severe than in East Cork’s town.

Tim Butler, Director of Kilkenny County Council’s Services Department told Prime Time that there had been “a great improvement” in the past two to three years regarding early warnings for residents during high wind conditions.

M Butler explained that “for flooding, the science is a bit more complex… Because you may have a weather warning in yellow, but a very heavy rain can fall on a specific location, causing problems with the surface water.”

The worrying part about this winter is the fact that soil moisture levels are quite high. We will feel the effects of a prolonged dry period in the coming months. Especially November and December when the rainfall is at its highest.

Experts at the University of Galway, working independently of Met Eireann have started work on a new system to provide local authorities with more accurate information in order to assess flood risk.

The system will integrate Met Eireann’s forecasts with data from other sources, including predicted storm surges, data in real time from river gauges, and data about rainfall occurring on the ground.

It is “possible, we believe, to deliver localised information, or at least develop tools that assist in integrating all of the information available that’s already out there,” said Dr Tom McDermott. He was a Lecturer and Climate economist at the University of Galway.

According to Mr McDermott, local decision makers should be able form an opinion based on available data about the probability of flooding as well as the most likely location for flooding to happen.

Met Eireann also developed its own model of flood prediction in recent years, which it hopes to be operational within the next few months.

Eoin S. Sherlock, Met Eireann says: “For the very first time in history, the state will have a model of a river catchment system at the national level.”

Models for catchment systems are simplified versions of real-world systems.

We’ll have the ability to indicate, say, when the Shannon is high, the Nore or Slaney are low, so we can give additional information to local authorities.

Weather warnings become even more important as major floods and other climate-related events are likely to increase in frequency.

We are improving our infrastructure. In the next few years, we’ll be deploying six new weather radars compared with the two currently in place. We’re constantly improving our forecasts and warnings by producing more accurate information.

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