‘We have to see this flooding in the context of climate change’ expert warns

January 5th 2016

  • Damaging winter flooding could be eight times more frequent because of climate change
  • We must prepare for a wetter future, says climate expert
Devastating winter flooding could be up to eight times more frequent because of climate change, flooding expert has warned.
Dr Conor Murphy of NUI Maynooth who specialises in the impact of climate change on rivers and waterways has said we must prepare for an increase in flooding events like we have seen this winter.
Speaking on RTE’s Six One News last night Dr Murphy pointed out that we have already seen a doubling in the likelihood of extreme flooding in last 100 years and this is set to increase.
His comments come as Met Éireann reveal that more rain fell in December 2015 than would be expected in an entire winter on average.
Speaking to RTE News, Dr Murphy said: ‘It is very difficult to link a specific extreme event to climate change but the evidence is saying to us that extreme events, like Storm Desmond, the risk of them occurring is increasing.
‘And this is down to human increases in Greenhouse gases.
‘We have to see these flood events in the wider global context. This year is the warmest on record globally and we have modes of natural climate variability, we have an unprecedented El Nino event and it is know that these kinds of conditions give rise to extremes in Ireland.
‘When we look at the Irish context we have seen a doubling of the likelihood of extremely wet winters over the last 100 years or so. We are likely to see flood events of this magnitude increase in frequency as we move into the future as a result of enhanced Greenhouse effect and human driven climate change.
The risk of flood events like this have increased and we are likely to see them occurring more frequently in the future – up to eight times more frequently. Dr Conor Murphy NUI Maynooth

‘It is not just in terms of wetter conditions, work that we have done here at Maynooth looking back at storms over the last 40 years or so we have seen an increase in the intensity of storm events in more recent years.
‘While we can’t say with certainty that this event is due to climate change, we can say that the risk of flood events like this have increased and we are likely to see them occurring more frequently in the future – up to eight times more frequently.
‘When we look at future climate change projections and we increase our understanding of catchment hydrology what we tend to find is that floods that might be at the present time be associated with a 100 year return period they can become as frequent as once every thirty or forty years based on our climate change projections.
‘There are uncertainties there but the results that we have suggest this is going to become more frequent and considerably more frequent.
‘There are a number of tools for reducing flood risk. The most important tool kit we have at the minute is the CFRAM study, the Catchment Flood Risk Assessment study. That is led by the Office of Public Works and they have identified 300 communities nationally who are at flood risk. Those plans are putting in place remedial measures for addressing flood risk over the medium and long term.
‘They include building flood defences like we have seen in Clonmel and Fermoy but also maybe dredging small sections of river courses or ensuring that the local context is addressed in dealing with flood events.
‘We have to put flooding in the context of climate change. It is critically important that any plans that are put in place to address flooding are stress tested against the future climate to ensure that they are robust. For example flood defences are put in place to deal with extreme flooding but their effectiveness decrease over time as the climate changes. So we have to ensure that they are built with stronger foundations so they can be upgraded over time and the standard of protection can be increased.’

About the Author

Ian Carey

Ian is the editor of the Green News. He works as Communications Manger with the Irish Environmental Network.