As the country deals with the aftermath of Storm Debi, some have questioned whether Met Éireann’s current warning system is fit for purpose.
Over the course of yesterday, weather warnings ahead of Storm Debi evolved from Status Orange in the morning to Status Red for five counties in the afternoon to 14 counties under a Red warning by last night.
Irish Weather Channel Climatologist Cathal Nolan told Moncrieff explained Met Éireann was dealing with “a phenomenally difficult storm to predict”.
“We would have seen, based on the meteorological charts, there was potential for a storm, through Sunday night through to Tuesday, when we would have looked at charts last week,” he said.
“It was really only on Saturday afternoon that we started to see the models coalesce, developing this clear picture that there was indeed the potential for a rather severe storm.
“Met Éireann’s forecast warnings based on the meteorological data were certainly justified in this case.”
'Getting the balance right'
Met Éireann, however, definitely faces some “constraints” in its storm warning system, according to Mr Nolan.
“It's about trying to get that balance right between warning the public but at the same time making sure that the warnings you deliver actually represent the physical meteorological conditions and risks,” he said.
Met Éireann’s current warning system of Yellow, Orange and Red was introduced in 2013 in a push by the European Union to match up all its member states’ weather warnings.
Mr Nolan, however, pointed out that storm warning systems still differ from country to country.
“Each meteorological body, for example Met Éireann in the Ireland and Met Office in the UK, each one of these organisations was responsible for designing their own key criteria for the issuing of yellow orange and red events,” he said.
“For example, let's say for a Status Red warning in Ireland in terms of wind, we need to see wind gusts exceeding 130 kilometres per hour.
“Even if we have winds up to 129 kilometres per hour, we would only see a Status Orange being issued.
“That could be very different, for example, in France, where if you see wind speeds in excess of 120 kilometres per hour, the Red warning can be issued.
“It also depends upon the metrological agency and whether they go for more impact-based warning systems, which is the case of the UK.”
New storm warnings
Many Irish people feel Met Éireann’s warning system is not comprehensive enough and has not accurately predicted the impact of storms, with one texter saying, “One word for weather alerts by Met Éireann: Midleton.”
“Can we not get a Purple warning for the real storms?” another texter asked.
Mr Nolan defended Met Éireann in the case of Storm Debi, saying it was a difficult storm to predict, but agreed it faces “constraints” in its current warning system.
“One of the constraints with the existing system and I think it's something that Met Éireann certainly are analysing is that previously we did base our warning strictly off that criteria,” he said.
“Whereas going forward, I think we need to move towards a more impact-based system.
“The storm forecast warnings that we issue are based on a county-by-county basis.
“But when it comes to granularity... when you’re trying to forecast a general warning for the county of Cork, given its scale, you could have justified issuing a Yellow, Orange and Red category warning in each of the various locations throughout Cork.
“You’re causing frustration in terms of the uncertainty, in terms of the basics of childcare, transport, education.”
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