Top weatherman gives his forecast for Ireland in 2050

By 2050 the country’s beef and dairy farmers will experience reduced grass growth during the summer months, top weatherman Gerald Fleming has forecast.

However, Fleming – famous for his trademark end-of-broadcast wink – believes more reliable grain harvests may be on the horizon.

The meteorologist and co-ordinator of the RTE television weather team, who is due to retire at the end of this month, has also warned that Atlantic storms and increased flooding – particularly along the River Shannon and River Blackwater – will be a common trend by the middle of the century.

Through the down-scaling of global weather models, which give some indication of how climate is changing worldwide, it is possible for Fleming to gauge the regional implications of changing climate on the island of Ireland.

When asked for his forecast for winter 2050 he stated:
  • More Atlantic storms;
  • More rain will bring more flooding to the Shannon, Blackwater; plus towns such as Clonmel, Athlone, Carlow;
  • There will be very little frost;
  • Higher seas;
  • Increased risk of coastal flooding in Dublin, Arklow, Wexford, Waterford, Cork, Limerick and Galway.

Having worked in meteorology for almost 40 years, Fleming anticipates that the extreme weather conditions that the country has experienced in recent years will continue.

When asked for his forecast for summer 2050 he said:
  • Warmer and drier;
  • Increased heat stress for the elderly;
  • More frequent drought in the east and south-east;
  • Water shortages around the main urban centres;
  • Reduced grass production for beef/dairy;
  • More reliable grain harvests.

Speaking to AgriLand Fleming said less rain in the summer months in the east and the south-east means grazing could become “limited” by moisture deprivation.

“The grass just won’t get as much rain as we get now typically in our summer months; therefore there will be less grass.

That is the trend that has been happening. Based on our computer models, that is a fairly robust prediction at the moment for what will happen in Ireland.

However, the dryer weather is expected to promote the ripening of grain.

“We don’t know much about the sunshine; or whether we will get more or less cloud; but you’d expect the warmer, dryer summer months will probably favour grain ripening.

But other challenges in that warmer weather mean you may get more fungus growers, which could lead to problems with diseases that will affect grain. That might become a bigger problem.

Fleming suggests that farmers will have to improve drainage systems to deal with increased flooding risks.

Special connection to farming

Looking back on the last 37 years at Met Eireann, Fleming – from Wexford town – said he has always been mindful of accurately informing the farming community.

“I’m not immediately from a farm but I would have spent all my summers on a farm; so I would be well familiar with farming. As a student I worked as a farm labourer in south Wexford.

“A lot of the time farmers are in the back of my mind; going out in bad weather and trying to do work around the farm is wearing. It’s a challenging profession.”

Although he is hanging up his clicker and moving away from the television screen, Fleming intends to continue working in meteorology.

I’ve had a wonderful career; I’ve gotten to this stage in life healthy and happy. It feels like the right time to allow some of the others in Met Eireann to come through and let their lights shine.

“I’ll miss aspects of it of course; but I have plans to stay in meteorology and do some other things. It’s the opening of a new chapter,” he said.