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19th Oct 2023

Met Éireann vow to “do a little bit better” after Storm Babet status criticism

Simon Kelly

Met Eireann weather warning criticism

Parts of the south experienced a months worth of rain over 24 hours.

The Head of forecasting at Met Éireann has admitted that the forecaster may need “to do a little bit better” after complaints were raised over the lack of a Status Red warning issued for the south of the country during Storm Babet.

Speaking on RTÉ Morning Ireland on Thursday, October 19, Met Éireann’s Eoin Sherlock explained why the warning was not issued yesterday.

“There’s only one or two millimetres between an Orange rainfall warning and a Red. I think maybe there’s an education piece and ourselves at Met Éireann, maybe we have to do a little bit better in this area.”

The storm brought “unprecedented” flooding in parts of Cork, which saw the Irish Defence Forces deployed to provide aid for the areas affected.

Mr Sherlock explained that the thresholds for Met Éireann’s weather warnings are reviewed every thirty years.

“Every 10 years we look at the climate averages. What that means is we look at what’s happened over the last 30 years, so that’s 1991 to 2020 and then we do some analysis.

“So a Red alert or a Red warning would probably correspond to say the highest 1% or 2% of rainfall events. An Orange warning then would probably be in the 95th percentile.”

Thresholds for weather warnings will change, says Met Éireann

Mr Sherlock also said that the thresholds for weather warnings issued by Met Éireann and how the forecaster communicates them to the public will change with the Irish climate.

“The climate has changed, there’s no doubt about that, that’s unequivocal,” he said. “We’ve gotten warmer; we’ve seen temperatures increase by point seven degrees since the last round of climate averages in the last 10 years.

He added that Ireland can expect more extreme rainfall due to increased temperatures, with the forecaster looking a changing warning thresholds to reflect that.

Storm Babet brought a month’s worth of rain in less than 24 hours, which caused severe flooding in parts of Cork, Kerry and Waterford. A Status Orange alert was maintained in the areas affected for the entirety of the storm.

“From our perspective, Orange is the second highest warning alert. We issue storm names when we expect Orange level wind warnings.

“That’s to help the public understand what’s coming, so if we issue an Orange warning for wind or for rain it really is kind of like, ‘I’d better check out my surroundings, I better think hard about what’s going to come.’

“Now unfortunately what happened, it just happened in such a short period of time. The rain came down the side of the mountains, the valleys and that’s what we got.”

Main image via Twitter/CorkCityCouncil

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