Heatwaves and floods the new norm as climate change becomes reality

Published by Laura Matjusaityte on

August 2nd, 2018

The summer of 2018 has seen unpredictable weather events moving from one extreme to the other, with the current heatwave easing down and flooding now knocking on the door.

After recording its hottest June on record, Northern Ireland fell straight into extreme flooding conditions last weekend, with some areas experience more than a month’s rain in just one afternoon.

Severe flooding led to the closure of several roads across Northern Ireland, as well as the cancellation of flights from Belfast Airport.

As climate change takes hold we will no doubt see more fluctuations such as those witnessed in Northern Ireland and other countries across Europe in recent months.

Flooding in Europe

After heavy flooding in November 2017 that killed at least 15 people and left many injured, the start of the summer in Greece brought, yet again, another flood with the heavy rain reaching up to 60 mm in 24 hours in some of the central and northern areas of Greece.

It is reported that 30 homes were flooded in the small town of Kanalia, with many roads blocked in areas around Athens. An estimate 15 people were rescued from homes and cars during the flooding.

France has faced floods and landslides brought on by heavy rain in the middle of June that lead to an accident near Paris where a train came off its tracks, leaving seven injured.

Some of the streets in Paris were flooded with over a metre of water as rainfall in the capital reached 75 mm in 24 hours, exceeding the previous record of 58 mm set in June 1980.

Spain also had a rainy start to the summer as heavy downpours caused disruption. Some regions around Barcelona were damaged by the heavy rain that also caused severe flooding in southern Spain.

The local Catalonia Meteorology station reported heavy rainfall on 6 June resulting in 78.6 mm of rain in 24 hours. This caused flooding of roads and over 300 emergency calls requesting assistance.

The city of Valencia suffered 116.8 mm of rainfall that flooded roads and tunnels. Local firefighters carried out a dramatic rescue operation to save three people trapped in a car from the rising water.

Heavy July rains in Slovakia lead to the evacuation of nearly 300 people in the mountains of Tatras, with some areas recording over 160mm of rainfall in 48 hours.

Climate Change

A recent 2018 study carried out by Newcastle University found that incidents of extreme weather will only worsen from 2050.

Researchers examined climate modules to predict future flooding, droughts, and heatwaves in European cities, providing three possible scenarios with low, medium or high impact. All three scenarios predict worsening heatwaves, droughts conditions and river flooding in all 571 European cities examined.

The low impact scenario predicts that southern European cities will most likely deal with more intensive drought conditions, while northwestern cities will see more flooding. The high impact scenario points to droughts and floods in almost every European city.

The study showed that Dublin, together with Helsinki, Riga, Vilnius, and Zagreb, will likely experience some of the worst flooding in all the Europe.  Under the worst case scenario, cities such as Cork, Waterford, and Derry may see more than an 80 per cent increase in river flooding.

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Laura Matjusaityte

Laura is a first-year journalism student at DIT. She has an interest in the environment, veganism and literature.