Climate change linked to extreme rainfall and Midleton flooding during Storm Babet, study finds

‘Blind luck that we avoided a worse catastrophe’ in Cork town and surrounding areas, says author of report

A new study has indicated that the extreme rainfall in October of last year, which led to major flooding in Midleton and other parts of east Cork, was more than twice as likely to occur at current global temperatures in comparison with pre-industrial times, due to climate change.

One of the authors of the study, Prof Peter Thorne from the ICARUS Climate Research Centre in Maynooth University, said it was “blind luck that we avoided a worse catastrophe” in Midleton and surrounding areas last year.

The “climate attribution” analysis was carried out on behalf of RTÉ by Dr Ben Clarke, a scientist with the World Weather Attribution (WWA) group at Imperial College London. He collaborated with researchers from the ICARUS Climate Research Centre and Met Éireann

Until now meteorologists in Ireland have resisted the notion that any single weather event can be blamed on climate change. However, Dr Ciara Ryan, Met Éireann climatologist says,with this [attrition science] study now we can”.


Of particular concern was the potential exacerbation of the storm’s aftermath had it coincided with high tide rather than low tide. The study suggests that this could have yielded far more severe consequences for the affected areas.

Meanwhile, Dr Ben Clarke said that scientific techniques developed and tested over the past 10 years formed part of the study.

He said that they went in to the Middleton study with an “open minded view if climate is driving risk and in this case, it is driving changes in risk.”

The study found, when comparing the current climate conditions to those from pre-industrial times, the chances of such heavy rainfall levels occurring today were 120 per cent more likely.

It also found that the extreme rainfall in Midleton and other parts of east Cork on October 17th and 18th, 2023, had an “increased intensity of around 13 per cent due to global warming”.

The research, which commenced in November of last year, examined the impact of climate change on such an extreme weather event.

By employing attribution science, the team were able to establish a correlation between climate change and the heightened intensity of Storm Babet.

The study will feature on Prime Time on RTÉ on Thursday evening.

In October of last year whilst on a visit to Midleton, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said that the Government planned to push to bring a flood relief scheme for the town to planning in 2024. A start date of 2027-2028 is flagged.

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