Understanding Irish Droughts

Funding and Collaboration

This project is funded by the Irish Resarch Council's Coalesce funding stream. It is based between UCD's School of Geography and Maynooth University's Department of Geography with collaborators from Trinity College Dublin's School of Histories & Humanities and Wilfred Laurier University's Department of Geography & Environmental Studies. Visit our Project Team page for more details.

Project Overview

Drought is an overlooked climate hazard in Ireland. However, as Summer 2018 has shown, severe droughts do occur in Ireland, often having serious consequences for water supplies, agriculture, flora and fauna. Such drought conditions disproportionately impact rural communities and have typically been more strongly experienced in the east and southeast.

Multi-year periods with limited rainfall are historically common in eastern and southeastern Ireland, however, the last 30 years have been unusually drought-free in Ireland. As a result there has been no actual physical stimulus to prompt government institutions and rural communities to better prepare for the inevitable shifts in seasonal temperature regimes and precipitation patterns that will be produced by climate change.

Indeed it is likely that the frequency and/or severity of droughts in Ireland in the coming decades will increase. To address this challenge, this project brings together researchers from physical and human geography, history and environmental studies to reconstruct historic Irish droughts, examining their severity, geographical extent and impacts from the Middle Ages to present. This involves the analysis of existing climatic records, tree-ring data, historic documents and folklore records, and the collection of new oral histories. In doing so we will document the significant economic and social impacts of past droughts on rural societies as well as the unique, inventive ways that communities have coped with drought conditions.

This project will also involve a substantial element of collaboration with Canadian colleagues working on coping strategies for drought and water management in Canada with the intention of transferring lessons learned to an Irish context. This project addresses key Sustainable Development Goals for Ireland as it will inform future policy and practice aimed at ensuring that rural Ireland is sufficiently prepared to deal with future climate change and its impact on water supplies, agriculture and the life of communities.