Irish Centre for High-End Computing updates regional climate data set for Ireland

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Latest research gives insight on conditions up to the year 2100

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13 September 2021 | 0

Climate scientists will be able to more accurately predict weather patterns as far as the year 2100 following the completion of the World Climate Research Programme’s sixth Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP6). The Project provides a common standard for collecting, organising and distributing data from experiments conducted around the world.

Ireland’s contribution, based on work at the Irish Centre for High-End Computing (ICHEC), was funded by the EPA, Met Éireann and the Marine Institute.

ICHEC worked with the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts to create a body of simulations using data from the EC-Earth Earth System Model. The work generated roughly 1.8PB of data, which was then standardised, quality controlled, validated and shared with the international research community through ICHEC’s Earth System Grid Federation data centre ‘node’.

 

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Dr Paul Nolan, climate scientist, ICHEC, explained: “The global climate projections comprise Ireland’s contribution to the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project and are currently being analysed for inclusion in the [United Nations] IPCC AR6 reports. In addition, the datasets are currently being analysed by the international research community and will feature in many future studies on the environmental, social and economic impacts of climate change.”

The research also contributed to the CMIP6 CovidMIP modelling experiment, an international collaboration led by the UK Met Office investigating how reduction in carbon emissions during the Covid-19 pandemic affected the climate.

ICHEC environmental programme manager Alistair McKinstry explained to TechRadio how changes in movement patterns and factory production presented an opportunity to test differences in emissions pre- and during the pandemic, and how those differences might be realised over the next five years.

“With the Covid lockdown, we had a dramatic change in human behaviour around the globe, in the amount of work being done, the number of factories that were running, the amount of travel that was going on, and how that impacted our climate,” he said. “As climate scientists, we saw the opportunity for this to be a natural experiment, to see if our models could reproduce this. And if they could work, what they would predict, compared to what we’d normally expect.

“Some of our colleagues in the UK Met Office helped organise a set of experiments to compare what we’re doing during Covid compared to daily life, and just see what effects our actions would have. For example, we saw a dramatic drop in the number of gases being emitted in April, and had a nice long, dry, sunny period. Was that coincidental or was that due to our actions?”

Regional modelling and national changes

The second major component of the research involves updating the regional climate projection dataset for Ireland. This is being achieved by running a body of simulations on the ICHEC supercomputer using regional and global climate models against four emission scenarios for the period 1980-2100. This component of the research is expected to be complete in early 2022.

These methods of regional climate modelling (RCM) simulations are run at high spatial resolution, allowing for a better evaluation of the effects of climate change on smaller areas. Additionally, the accuracy of the model’s predictions is enhanced by using regional information from atmospheric ocean wave activity.

For now, the regional data presents a startling picture of the Irish climate, with a shift towards what we currently consider hot days becoming hotter and cold nights becoming even colder. Summer heatwaves are expected to occur more frequently, with the largest increases in the south.

Our rainy climate is expected to become more variable, with substantial projected increases in the occurrence of both dry periods and heavy precipitation events.

Snowfall is projected to decrease substantially by the middle of the century with reductions of over 30%, while the data indicated a decrease of 50% in the number of frost days.

The length of the grazing season is projected to increase substantially by mid-century.

It’s also likely we will see effects in the kind of renewable energy we use. Wind speed and energy content of wind at turbine height is projected to decrease for all seasons with the largest decreases noted for summer, presenting an issue for wind farms. The projected change in the solar photovoltaic energy resource shows a small expected decrease by the middle of the century – with the largest decreases in the north.

The projected change in ‘heating degree days’, shows that by the middle of the century there will be a greatly reduced requirement for heating in Ireland. These simulations were computed using a base temperature of 15.5°C (an average daily temperature below which heating is required). Similarly, ‘cooling degree days’ are projected to slightly increase, particularly over the east and midlands, suggesting a small increase in air conditioning requirements by the middle of the century.

The amount of water vapour in the atmosphere will also increase substantially by the middle of the century, making for more humid conditions.

“The national climate modelling research will update, and improve, the current regional climate projection dataset for Ireland,” said Dr Nolan. “Going forward, the study will further analyse projections of additional climate fields and derived variables that are of importance to sectors including agriculture, health, energy, biodiversity and transport.

Acting on climate change

The Irish Centre for High-End Computing is participating in a number of events during Dublin Climate Action Week, which is taking place from 13-19 September 2021.

On Tuesday, 14 September Alastair McKinstry will participate in a panel discussion involving experts in climate change. 

The event, called Climate Change Projections for Ireland, is being hosted by the Dublin Metropolitan Climate Action Regional Office and will be moderated by Dr Cara Augustenborg, Environmental Scientist & Climate Change Lecturer at University College Dublin. Panellists include Dr Barry O’Dwyer of Climate Ireland, MaREI Centre, University College Cork, and Keith Lambkin, senior climatologist at Met Éireann.

Registration for the event is free. To register follow this link

On Wednesday 15 September Spatial Outlook and Codema, Dublin’s Energy Agency, will introduce the Regional Energy Demand Analysis Portal (REDAP), a secure, online decision support tool which will help guide Dublin’s energy transition.

By bringing together data from a range of sources, REDAP allows users to monitor and report on the characteristics, distribution and patterns of consumption in the building and transport sectors (such as fuel types, expenditure and load profiles). 

During this presentation, planners, policy-makers and other public representatives will learn about how these data insights can help deliver effective climate adaptation and mitigation measures. ICHEC has supported REDAP through code optimisation. To register for REDAP’s presentation, follow this link

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