Recent flooding only a taste of things to come


Ireland’s recent flooding is only a taste of things to come. Few towns in Ireland even have a flood defence scheme, much less a system of levees. One challenge facing Ireland by the year 2050 is the persistent risk of rainfall. Increased rainfall brings with it an increased risk of floods, as well as storms as powerful and disruptive as current weather conditions being experienced around the country.

The increased rainfall caused by climate change will be accompanied by storms and flash floods, like those we saw in August 2008, when the M50 was closed because a section of it was underwater.

On the night of 9 August 2008, a record 76.2 mm of rain fell, overwhelming sewage and drainage systems, which were already strained due to a high tide. Large sections of the infrastructure around Dublin were closed for twenty-four hours while the water was pumped away, businesses in Kildare and Celbridge had the contents of their stores destroyed by flooding, and a train derailed.

Homes across Ireland were damaged; many were uninsured for flooding because of the rarity of the event. Lives were lost on the roads due to the perilous driving conditions experienced during those days. The record 76.2 mm of rainfall broke the previous national record set in 1986 by Hurricane Charlie. In Cork, the rainfall record was set in 1975, and that too was broken. The flash flooding we saw in August 2008 was described by the media as a once-in-a-century, rare-as-owl’s-teeth event.

The trouble is that, thanks to climate change, we will see more of these ‘freak’ occurrences, and their impacts will only worsen unless preventative measures are put in place. We have seen a 'once in 800' year event this week. Next year we'll see another.

A once-in-a-century event will become a once-in-a-year event. This is a cause for concern. When we think about making our homes, businesses and infrastructure safe against flash floods and freak occurrences, there will always be the tendency to seek the average when costing the measures to prevent these events. In August 2008, drainage systems around the country were overwhelmed by the flooding. The systems did not have the capacity to cope with an extreme event. The sewage and drainage systems on Irish roads were not designed to deal with 76.2 mm of rainfall in one twenty-four-hour period. Homes which were close to rivers whose banks had not burst in living memory were flooded – to the shock of the home-owners.

This pattern has repeated itself in recent days.

The influence of extreme weather events on Irish life will only increase for our grandchildren in 2050. How they cope with these events will be determined largely by the planning processes we put in place to ensure that the impacts of these rare events are reduced for the average Irish person. People and institutions are already adapting.
It is a question of how much to adapt, and how much foresight the government displays in dealing with the current crises, and those to come.

6 Replies to “Recent flooding only a taste of things to come”

  1. Does proof mean nothing to you and your fellow 'climate change' fanatics? Since global warming has stopped since 1998, you revert to the catch-all 'climate change', as if changing climate were a new thing. You're aware of the ice ages, no? Also, what caused previous flooding in Ireland (eg, Dublin in 1954)?
    You sound like those manipulators of data in the CRU who were exposed last week as liars and frauds.

  2. Hi Norman,

    Thanks for your comment.

    I'm not a fanatic about climate change. I've examined the ICARUS data and simulation methods myself, observation by observation. I can happily point you to the references given in my book to the peer-reviewed studies on the subject if you're interested.

    My point isn't blunted by who or what causes 'climate change' or, to be more precise, flooding in Ireland.

    My point is that recent episodes have confirmed that Ireland is not prepared even for mild flooding episodes, much less the full blown catastrophic scenarios we might encounter in the future. As in 2007, 2008, and 2009, there are areas in Ireland which will, no doubt, flood in 2010 and 2011, climate change or not, ice age or not. These areas need to be protected, regardless of the cause of their flooding.

    You should read the Irish economy blog's take on the CRU-gate, it doesn't seem like the case for climate change has been blunted in any way, shape, or form. It seems like some rather unpleasant personal information was shared, and the data they produce called into question as a result, but the data used for other, more robust scientific holds up well, so the case for climate change remains pretty strong.

    From the blog:

    "Doubt has been cast over the CRU data. Insiders never really trusted their data, and it is actually little used as an input to other climate research. The global mean temperature record is used for communication rather than research. Most of the temperature graphs you have seen in the newspaper are from the CRU, but independent research has corroborated their main findings. Statistical analyses similarly have used alternative data series, and the results are broadly the same."

  3. The role of local government in overturning development plans (which were in themselves poor), building on flood planes etc has some how been over looked. Looking to 2050, the future structure of Irish local gov particularly funding is a major issue.

  4. Barra, I could not agree with you more. We need to increase transparency and accountability at all levels. Two simple solutions would be webcams in official meetings, and jail terms.

  5. Don't think webcams would be that much use if no one has interest to watch it. Was involved in campaign on keeping the college green bus gate open recently and councillors were unwilling to request a rollcall vote on the issue. We got enough to ask for it and its shocking who voted against the measure, even when they admitted there was no evidence that it was causing damage to business etc. Only time I've ever seen any interest in Dublin City Council business.

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