Ireland could see “Armageddon weather scenarios” in the next few decades due to melting glaciers and a warming planet, a new documentary reveals.
The compelling new RTE documentary, Will Ireland Survive 2050, visualises for the first time the damage being wrought on Ireland by the warming planet’s increasingly extreme weather patterns.
Experts say Irish summer temperatures could climb by three degrees while the sea level could rise by nearly 20 inches in another 30 years.
The programme, headed by veteran meteorologist Ger Fleming and environmental scientist, Dr Cara Augustenborg, presents a series of worst-case weather scenarios from climate change.
One scientist noted that Ireland could end up with the climate of Iceland if the Gulf Steam completely shuts down.
The documentary also deals with how flooding could affect of places like Cork city which are under the dual threat of rising sea levels and increased frequency of extreme events.
Newly constructed 3D representations will show what parts of our country will look like in the year 2050.
Former RTE weather forecaster Gerard Fleming, who is a senior consultant in operational meteorology and weather communication, said he is genuinely worried about what Irish weather forecasts will be like in the future.
“I expect them to feature more floods, more drought and more prolonged cold snaps”, he noted.
Fleming, who is currently working with the World Meteorological Organisation and the World Bank, visits Greenland to see with his own eyes how record-breaking rates of melting ice-caps are causing the global sea level to rise.
“It’s just melting away here”, as he watched the heavily dripping glacier, “We’re losing more ice through melting than we are gaining with snowfall. It’s scary. It’s nature in action.”
He explains to viewers how the melting of that ice cap will have disastrous consequences for Irish weather and our way of life.
“The accelerated rate at which they are melting will have a devastating impact on weather in Ireland, it’s already happening, extreme weather events are increasing in strength, frequency and intensity.”
The documentary details how carbon emissions on the planet are higher than have been in the last 400,000 years.
Flooding expert, Dr Barry O’Dwyer, from the Marine and Renewable Energy Research, Development and Innovation Centre, says Ireland is seeing an increase in temperatures and an increase of sea levels around Ireland’s coastal areas.
“In terms of sea level rise, by 2050 we’re probably looking in the region of 40 cm to 50 cm.
“Internationally, the expert body on this is the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change and they’re projecting for 2100 an increase of 80 cm.
“In the case of a city like Cork it is very significant when we look at the quay walls and we see what would 80 cm mean in terms of coastal flooding in the city.
“In addition, we have to think about the increase in frequency of intense precipitation events, you can imagine we will have increased levels of water coming down the (River) Lee and on top of that we will have a sea level rise plus a storm surge. “
He said extreme evens are predicted to become much more regular.
“A one in 100 year event will become a one in 20 year event, maybe a one in 10 year event maybe on a yearly basis.”
Meanwhile, the RTE programme also spells out how changes to the Gulf Stream could have devastating consequences for Ireland as it keeps the nation a couple of degrees warmer than the rest of Northern Europe despite out position so far away from the equator.
Dr Ger McCarthy, from the Department of Geography, at NUI Maynooth tells Ger Fleming what would happen if the warm ocean current malfunctions completely.
He said: “If the Gulf Stream shut down completely we might expect an eight degree cooling around Ireland, that’s transforming the climate of Ireland into the climate of Iceland.
“We don’t think it is a likely scenario, what we think is a very likely to happen is that the gulf stream system is going to slow down, we expect that to happen by about 30% by 2050.”
The popular weather forecaster said at the end of the documentary that he hopes Ireland can change course to help prevent climate change.
“We can slow down. For all of our sakes we should give it a right old go”, said Fleming.
Will Ireland Survive 2050? will be shown on RTE One on Monday 11th November, at 9.35pm.
Met Eireann’s Head of Climatology and Observations, Seamus Walsh says: “Since 1900 we
have seen a temperature rise by about one degree (Celsius) and it looks like we are looking at another one to one and half degrees increase in mean temperature by the middle of the century.”
“This could mean an increase in maximum summer temperatures of about three degrees Celsius.
“We are looking at maybe more extremes in very wet days, these are day with more than 30 mm of rain especially in winter time which could cause problems for flooding.
“As regards winds it looks like we will see fewer storms in the big sense but some of the storms which do occur could be even more severe than what has been happening.”