Fod­der cri­sis on the hori­zon as re­lent­less rain takes its toll

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - - NEWS - Wayne O’Con­nor

FARM­ERS fear they are the first Irish vic­tims of cli­mate change as a fod­der cri­sis looms on the hori­zon be­cause of in­ces­sant rain since July and a short­age of con­sec­u­tive dry days.

Re­cent del­uges have also shown up a dis­par­ity in the weather con­di­tions on both sides of the coun­try, with con­di­tions get­ting in­creas­ingly wet­ter as you move from east to west.

Des­mond McHugh dou­bles up op­er­at­ing a Met Eire­ann cli­ma­tol­ogy sta­tion near his home in Co Leitrim with run­ning the fam­ily farm.

He mon­i­tors tem­per­a­tures and rain­fall ev­ery day, records the fig­ures and then sends the data to Met Eire­ann head­quar­ters ev­ery month to be an­a­lysed by ex­perts. There are more than 400 sim­i­lar sta­tions na­tion­wide.

Once his fig­ures are logged they are used to im­prove weather fore­cast­ing and given to in­ter­ested par­ties such as An Garda Siochana, Irish Wa­ter and lo­cal au­thor­i­ties, who may use the data to carry out es­sen­tial pub­lic ser­vices.

Mr McHugh’s fig­ures show there have been fewer dry days this year be­tween July and Oc­to­ber, com­pared to the same pe­riod last year. It has also been the wettest July-Oc­to­ber pe­riod, in terms of rain­fall lev­els, since 2009. These are key months for farm­ers be­cause the brighter and drier days al­low them to pre­pare for win­ter. He said he fears this is an in­di­ca­tion of the im­pact cli­mate change is hav­ing on Irish weather con­di­tions.

“From the mid­dle of July on­wards, things started to get re­ally dif­fi­cult. Then, from the mid­dle of Au­gust, it took off and there was less dry­ing and less evap­o­ra­tion. That made things very dif­fi­cult.”

Last year, he ob­served 10 dry days be­tween July and Oc­to­ber. How­ever, this year he counted only seven.

Met Eire­ann archives show Mr McHugh recorded an aver­age of 23 dry days for the same pe­riod over the past nine years.

This year he recorded 528.8mm of rain dur­ing that pe­riod, a 54pc in­crease on last year. The high­est amount of rain dur­ing the past four months came on Au­gust 22, the same day as the dev­as­tat­ing floods that hit Co Done­gal. Mr McHugh recorded 38.4mm of rain that day. This has not helped farm­ers.

“It has a knock-on ef­fect be­cause it takes the land a longer time to re­cover af­ter a huge amount of rain. We don’t know what the fu­ture holds, so if it con­tin­ues to stay wet, there will be an ac­cu­mu­la­tive im­pact. That will then go on and hit peo­ple fi­nan­cially,’’ he said.

“Some farm­ers were able to get a sec­ond cut done dur­ing the sum­mer, oth­ers were not. Those who didn’t will be left short dur­ing the win­ter for feed­ing cat­tle. This will have an im­pact fi­nan­cially be­cause it means they will have to go out and in­vest in feed­ing their cat­tle.”

He also said the fig­ures demon­strate a clear dis­par­ity be­tween weather con­di­tions on the east and west coasts.

Met Eire­ann me­te­o­rol­o­gist San­dra Spil­lane said there has tra­di­tion­ally been a dif­fer­ence in rain­fall lev­els on both sides of the coun­try. How­ever, it has been ob­served that wet days are oc­cur­ring more reg­u­larly.

“In gen­eral, we have found that the east­ern half of the coun­try has be­tween 750 and 1,000 mm of an­nual rain­fall,” she said.

“How­ever, due to a mainly west­erly air­flow across the At­lantic Ocean, rain­fall in the west aver­ages 1,000-1,250 mm and up to 1,500 mm in some coastal ar­eas. Even more higher up in the moun­tains, an­nual rain­fall to­tals in ex­cess of 2,000 mm are not un­com­mon.”

‘Farm­ers who didn’t get a sec­ond cut done will be left short’

Photo: Gerry Mooney

MIR­ROR IM­AGE: A swan makes its way through the colour­ful re­flec­tions in St Stephen’s Green in Dublin.

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