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Harsh winter weather for Ireland?


(pic: wintry Clare, John Kelly)

As we have been saying all through this year, the coming Ireland winter should be fairly mild, with a storm in the first week of January and snow mostly in January and March, and the last snow day occurring in May.  Winter is close to being typical for Ireland. Conditions will not be too severe, but with the usual occasional rain and snow. The windiest spell may be in the third week of February.

The Sun determines the temperature cycle, not the El Ninos, which are part of a lunar cycle of changing ocean current directions. Sometimes in El Nino westerly winds strengthen and direct Atlantic storms on a northerly track across N Europe dragging the jetstream south and over eastern Europe which can mostly miss Ireland.  Of course temperatures will drop in coming weeks, but that is the nature of seasonal change.

The hype about strong El Ninos bringing harsh winters is misinformed.  1982-83 and 1997-98 were strong El Nino years but there were no harsh UK winters then.  This will be another weak El Nino year. The weak El Niño winter of 2006/2007 was unusually mild in Europe, and the Alps recorded very little snow coverage that season. El Niños typically follow a solar maximum or minimum and we have just come through a weak solar cycle, so the logical outcome is a weak El Nino,  e.g. the weak El Nino of 2006-7 which followed a weak solar cycle.  Alternatively, strong El Ninos follow relatively steep solar cycles e.g. the El Ninos of 1957-58, 1965-66, 1982-83, and 1997-98.  

During the last El Nino of 2009/2010, winter across northern Europe, including Ireland was very cold mainly because there was a deep, long, solar minimum at the same time and basically the sun was asleep.  The same happened during the extended solar minimum of 1962-62, still called one of the coldest winters Ireland has ever had.  A further example was the extended solar minimum during 1932-35.  What happened then? In 1932 the Niagara Falls froze over. In 1933 came the Great Blizzard of February 1933 which was the greatest weather event of the 1930s to struck Ireland, and at the time was reported as being the greatest weather event of the 20th century. Therefore El Ninos must be considered along with depth of the solar cycles they follow.

As for specific trends for this winter, the first chances of widespread snow about 18-24 November, give or take a day or two. November overall will be drier, sunnier and warmer than average and a westerly month, with significant rain and strong winds as Atlantic depressions pile in off the Atlantic. Western areas get the brunt but nowhere escapes above average rain amounts.  Most rain is around 15 and 27-29 November.

December is again drier, sunnier and warmer than average. There may be fluctuating temperatures with rain in the first and third weeks and a temperature drop around 12-16 December. A frost is likely just before Xmas Day, then on 26 December come cold SE winds followed by wintry rain as temperatures barely climb above freezing.  Therefore expect snow on or near 12 and 28 December.

January is unsettled in the first half of the month but fairly mild, with stormy rain 9-19 January.  On several occasions temperatures will climb to nearly 15C  and this may feel warm and spring like.  This has happened several times before so  is not global warming, and even though daffodils may start to flower it is just in response to soil temperatures. Chances of snow come around 17 January.

February is again interesting as regards daytime temperatures.  After 12 February, winds from the south draw warm air up to possibly around 14-15C.  Then it goes windy between 17-26 February and snow is a possibility around 17 February. The month is mostly cloudy.  March is a month of mild temperatures, with about 2/3 of daytime maximums reaching to above 10C, only dipping below 2C on about three days.  Conditions will be good for snow around 3, 10 and 14 March.

April is much colder than the winter months in the last week, with possibility of snow around 18 and 23 April. In the last week in April comes the first decent spell of sunshine.  However, don't get your hopes too high - summer will be cool and unsettled overall, with some good dry intervals but no prolonged heat waves.

The Weather Almanac for Ireland for 2016 is available in November from

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