How Northern Ireland could have a heatwave this summer

Friday, 13th April 2018, 4:21 pm
Updated Monday, 16th April 2018, 3:24 pm

With unseasonably warm weather coming this week, Northern Ireland is looking forward to embracing the sunshine.

However, every time there is an eagerly anticipated burst of sunshine, the inevitable question on everyone’s lips is: how long will this last? And what will summer be like?

So could Northern Ireland have a heatwave this summer, and is this week’s warmer weather forecast set to last?

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The ways in which Northern Ireland could have a heatwave this summer

A heatwave, as the name suggests, refers to a prolonged period of hot weather, which is at times accompanied by high humidity.

Low pressure and high pressure are two of the main variables which control how much heat the UK receives, high atmospheric pressure being how a heatwave occurs.

Heatwaves are most common in summer due to high pressure developing across an area, and high pressure systems are slow-moving and can persist over an area for a prolonged period of time.

Last year, a heatwave occurred in the month of June into July.

Heatwaves can occur in this country due to the location of the jet stream, which allows high pressure to develop and results in persistent dry and settled weather.

(Photo: Shutterstock)

This week's warm weather forecast, with temperatures hopefully reaching the high teens or low 20s, also relates to this low and high pressure system, as the low pressure system, which brings cold and wet weather, is slowly moving away from Northern Ireland and settling down.

Although Northern Ireland, along with the West of Scotland, is slightly closer to the low pressure ridge than other parts of Scotland, England and Wales, it is still in a good location for the high pressure and is set to see warm spring sunshine all week long.

Northern Ireland records

• The highest ever temperature recorded in Northern Ireland is 30.8C (87.4F).

• This record has been set on two separate occasions: at Shaw's Bridge, Belfast on 12 July 1983, and at Knockarevan on 30 June 1976.

Source: Met Office

Grahame Madge from the Met Office explains that this week's warm weather forecast is due to “warm air coming up from further South, from both Europe and the Atlantic”, which then brings the temperatures up, this being caused by a “ridge of high pressure”.

With this ‘high pressure’ being the cause of a heatwave, is this month’s warmer weather a sign of things to come during the summer?

The answer to this question isn’t as simple as you may think.

Will this summer be a scorcher?

Although the whole of Northern Ireland is wishing this answer to be yes, the forecasting of the weather is much more complex than a simple yes or no.

Mr Madge explains that although they are “making great strides in meteorological science”, continuously pushing the boundaries of longer and more advanced forecasts, making any weather predictions past a month is “too challenging”.

The vast amount of data which is required to be collected and analysed per second just for a 12 hour forecast, means that any forecast past a seven-day period decreases in accuracy and becomes the “merest of indications”.

Are we set to have a summer scorcher? (Photo: Shutterstock)

Although the location of Northern Ireland means that we can experience warmer weather and perhaps a heatwave or two at times, Mr Madge explains that the country’s location also makes it a “crossroads for weather from all directions”, which makes it harder to predict weather past a month, as our ‘atmosphere is “so chaotic”.

The past few years have been warmer in the summer generally, with last year setting a new record, but this unfortunately doesn’t guarantee the same for this year.

We can but hope that the high ridge of pressure triumphs over the low pressure, and that this week’s warm weather forecast continues, allowing us to have a summer scorcher and not a weather washout.