Extreme heat a sign of things to come in NI, say climate experts

The record breaking heat in Northern Ireland this week could become normal in future thanks to climate change, experts have warned.

By Niall Deeney
Friday, 23rd July 2021, 7:01 am
Updated Friday, 23rd July 2021, 2:47 pm
Tristan Brennan, Gary Niblock and Jamie Craig take a dive off the rocks at Orlock, Co Down yesterday as Northern Ireland sweltered again in record-breaking temperatures

Pic: Jonathan Porter/PressEye
Tristan Brennan, Gary Niblock and Jamie Craig take a dive off the rocks at Orlock, Co Down yesterday as Northern Ireland sweltered again in record-breaking temperatures Pic: Jonathan Porter/PressEye

This comes after the record for the hottest ever day in Northern Ireland was broken again yesterday, this time in Co Armagh.

And with the possibility of a hosepipe ban looming, forecasters believe it could be even hotter today.

After new records were set in Co Down and Co Tyrone earlier this week, yesterday’s 31.4C in Armagh means the three hottest days in more than a century of record-keeping by the Met Office have come in less than a week.

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And Armagh Observatory, whose records stretch back to 1794, confirmed that yesterday was the hottest day in 227 years.

Met Office meteorologist Simon Partridge, speaking to the News Letter, left little doubt as to whether such extreme weather conditions would become more frequent in the future.

“Unfortunately, the trend is that these types of things will be more common as we go forward,” he said.

“The standard Met Office answer is that no one individual weather event can be put down to climate change, but the fact that we are seeing this more often is,” he explained.

That view was echoed by Professor Michael Burton from the Armagh Observatory and Planetarium, who said: “While no single temperature measurement or weather event can be attributed to the effects of climate change, the hottest temperature ever recorded in Armagh on Wednesday 21st July is consistent with the long-term trend of rising temperatures that is seen in the Armagh Observatory data set, that stretches back to the late 18th century.”

Green Party MLA Rachel Woods told the News Letter the extreme weather shows the need for a Climate Bill.

Professor Burton added: “Seven of the ten highest daily temperatures ever measured in Armagh over that long period [227 years] have occurred over just the past 15 years.”

Mr Partridge, meanwhile, explained that an expectation of more frequent extreme heat is one of the reasons the Met Office moved to implement the warning system.

An amber ‘extreme heat’ warning remains in place for today.

“They were only brought in for the first time this year, so it is the first time we’ve ever issued those warnings.

“We’ve brought those in because we are expecting these to be more frequent events in the coming summers.”

He said the new record might not last very long, with “all the indications” showing that “it might be a smidgen warmer” today.

Green Party MLA Rachel Woods said: “Experts have set out that climate breakdown will increase the frequency of extreme weather events such as the hot weather we are experiencing at present.

“We have seen this across the globe for decades. Rising temperatures leads to destruction of habitats and ecosystems, displacing people and their livelihoods. We are already seeing this impact on our infrastructure in NI as one example.”

She added: “That’s why we need we need the Climate Change Bill for Northern Ireland — an ambitious but achievable Bill which will help create climate resilience.”

Ms Woods’ party leader, Clare Bailey, tabled a Private Member’s Bill back in March that proposes Northern Ireland commit to achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2045.

Opponents, including the Ulster Farmers’ Union, said the Bill would damage the agriculture industry.

And last month, a second climate bill began its path through the Northern Ireland Assembly after Agriculture and Environment Minister Edwin Poots received approval in late July from the executive to progress it.

Mr Poots’ bill, meanwhile, has a less stringent target and a longer time frame.

The new temperature record, meanwhile, was set at a weather station in Armagh City yesterday afternoon.

A tweet from the Met Office said: “Northern Ireland has once again provisionally broken its highest temperature on record.

“Armagh reached 31.4C at 1520 this afternoon.

“This beats the 31.2C that Ballywatticock recorded on Saturday and the 31.3C that Castlederg recorded yesterday.”

It is the first time since records began, in 1910, that the temperature has exceeded 31 degrees. Until Saturday, the previous highest Northern Ireland temperature recorded was 30.8C.