Ken Ring of www.predictweather.com is author of the Weather Almanac for Ireland for 2016.
Here he gives us a look at what to expect for the coming year.
The suggestion that strong El Ninos would cause harsh winters for Ireland is without base. 1982-83 and 1997-98 were considered strong El Nino years but there were no harsh UK winters then. The weak El Niño winter of 2006/2007 was unusually mild in Europe, and the Alps recorded very little snow coverage that season.
That this winter would be mild for Ireland, with no long severe cold spells, is written in our almanacs of both 2015 and 2016. However, Ireland will still receive occasional wintry spells, for example in the third week of February.
Some are wondering why winter has been so wet. Mild winters will always be wet. Consider the opposite – colder air creates higher pressure systems because colder air is heavier. High pressure systems bring dry weather. Warmer winter air feeds clouds, which must fall as rain. Some comfort can be taken from the fact that January is for 2016 its wettest month, and February the driest. The next wettest month should be November, so once we all get through January we won’t have to face floods as frequently.
So what can we expect in coming months? There may be chances of light snow flutters in the hills around the end of January and beginning of February, frosts February 6-15, and three lots of frost or snow in March (March 4, 10, 19). And also possible snow around April 20-27, which will get some media attention because it is quite late. Then we will have to wait until mid November for the next subzero minimum. Any dry periods exceeding four days may not be until most of the first half of February (3-13), the last week of February (23-29), the last week of March (23-31).
FEBRUARY is interesting as regards daytime temperatures. After mid February, winds from the south draw warm air up to possibly around 14-15C by February 23 and 24. Then conditions go windy between February 17-26 and snow is a possibility around February 17. The month is mostly cloudy.
MARCH is a month of mild temperatures, with about two or three of daytime maximums reaching to above 10C, only dipping below 10C on about six days. Conditions will be good for snow around March 3, 10 and 19. There are risks of flooding around the middle of March.
APRIL is likely to be cooler than the winter months in the last week of the month, with the possibility of snow around April 23. The last week in April also brings the first decent spell of sunshine. But in April there are no lengthy dry spells.
MAY brings the last risks of flooding for the year in the second week. It dries up after May 22 and that dry spell extends until June 3. That is nearly two weeks of settled conditions and which will be the best of the summer, and with the last week in May set to deliver the sunniest spell for the year.
JUNE is also sunny June 21-25 but is expected to be fairly shortlived
JULY is dry for about eight days for some of the second and third weeks (9-17), then August (5-8), but then no dry spell until September 28-October 3.
Readers can calculate for themselves which will be warmer Ireland summers. The sun supplies the heat, which varies in an 11.8 year cycle, or about 12 and 22-23 years. To work out warmer summers, let us remember the warm summer of 1995. Adding 11-12 gives us the pleasant summer of 2006, and adding 23 gives us that the next decent summer with long dry periods will be 2018. Until then, that is, 2016 and 2017, should just be typically mild summers with occasional dry spells but nothing spectacular.
So don’t get your hopes too high – summer will be cool and unsettled overall, earlier than expected with some good dry intervals but no prolonged heat waves. The highest temperature may be about 24C towards the end of May (28-29)
As for wind, by averaging estimated wind force values across the months we estimate that January is the windiest and May the calmest. The order of overall average-windiest months, as listed in the almanac are January, November, December, March, August, February, April, July, September, October, June and May, which seems to be bearing out. So winter is windy, followed by a calm spring and summer, then a breezy autumn.
In terms of the whole year, it will turn out to be a slightly wetter although sunnier year and warmer than standard 30-year average. The largest amount of precipitation in one region and month is in January in central counties.
Wettest month: January followed by November.
Driest month: February, followed by May.
Sunniest month: May followed by September.
Cloudiest month: February followed by January.
Warmest month: August (especially August 18-21 with temperatures in low 20Cs), followed by September.
Coolest month: January, followed by February and April.
Windiest month: January followed by November.
Calmest month: May, followed by June.
Winter brings average rain, above average temperatures. but average to less sunshine. Spring brings average rain and temperatures, (except warmer overall in Connaught) and less sunshine than average. Summer brings average rain, average temperatures (but cooler overall in Ulster and Leinster) and below average sunshine. Autumn is warmer and sunnier than the norm, with average rain.
For more information, and how to order the Weather Almanac for Ireland for 2016, visit www.predictweather.com.