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Climate of the Past An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
© Author(s) 2017. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
Research article
10 Nov 2017
Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. A revision of this manuscript was accepted for the journal Climate of the Past (CP) and is expected to appear here in due course.
A 305-year continuous monthly rainfall series for the Island of Ireland (1711–2016)
Conor Murphy1, Ciaran Broderick1, Timothy P. Burt2,12, Mary Curley3, Catriona Duffy1, Julia Hall4, Shaun Harrigan5, Tom K.R. Matthews6, Neil Macdonald7, Gerard McCarthy1, Mark P. McCarthy8, Donal Mullan9, Simon Noone1, Timothy J. Osborn10, Ciara Ryan1, John Sweeney1, Peter W. Thorne1, Seamus Walsh3, and Robert L. Wilby11 1Irish Climate Analysis and Research UnitS (ICARUS), Department of Geography, Maynooth University, Ireland
2Department of Geography, Durham University, Durham, DH1 3LE, UK
3Climatology and Observations Division, Met Éireann, Dublin, Ireland
4Institute of Hydraulic Engineering and Water Resources Management, Technische Universität Wien, Vienna, Austria
5Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, Wallingford, Oxfordshire, OX10 8BB, UK
6School of Natural Sciences and Psychology, Liverpool John Moores University, Liverpool, Merseyside, L3 3AF, UK
7Department of Geography and Planning, School of Environmental Sciences, University of Liverpool, Liverpool, UK
8Met Office, Hadley Centre, Fitzroy Road, Exeter, EX1 3PB, UK
9School of Natural and Built Environment, Queen’s University Belfast, N. Ireland, UK
10Climate Research Unit, School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK
11Department of Geography, Loughborough University, UK
12Department of Geographical Sciences, University of Bristol, Bristol, BS8 2LR, UK
Abstract. A continuous 305-year (1711–2016) monthly rainfall series is created for the Island of Ireland. Two overlapping data sources are employed: i) a previously unpublished UK Meteorological Office note containing annual rainfall anomalies and corresponding proportional monthly totals based on weather diaries and early observational records for the period 1711–1977 and; ii) a long-term, homogenised monthly rainfall series for the island of Ireland for the period 1850–2016. Using estimates of long-term average precipitation from the homogenised series to merge these sources, the new 305-year record is constructed and insights drawn about notable extremes, climate variability and change. The consistency of the resulting series was evaluated by comparison with independent long-term observations and reconstructions of precipitation, temperature and circulation indices from across the British-Irish Isles. Strong decadal consistency is evident throughout the record amongst all series in spring, summer and autumn. The winter series is probably too dry from the 1740s to the 1780s, but strong consistency with other records strengthens confidence from 1790 onwards. The new Island of Ireland series reveals remarkably wet winters during the 1730s, concurrent with a period of strong westerly airflow, glacial advance throughout Scandinavia and near unprecedented warmth in the Central England Temperature record – all consistent with the strong phase of the North Atlantic Oscillation. The driest winter decade in the series coincides with the Laki eruption of 1783–1784. Unusually wet summers occurred in the 1750s, consistent with proxy (tree-ring) reconstructions of summer precipitation in the region. In the annual series, the most recent decade (2006–2015) is found to be the wettest in over 300 years. The new series reveals statistically significant (0.05 level) multi-centennial trends in winter (increasing) and summer (decreasing) seasonal precipitation. However, given uncertainties in the early winter record, the former should be treated as tentative. Importantly, we show that the years 1940 to present – the period with the most widely available digitised records – is unrepresentative of long-term changes in all seasons. Although there are recognized uncertainties in the early record, the derived series offers valuable insights for understanding multi-decadal and centennial rainfall variability in Ireland, and provides a firm basis for benchmarking other long-term records and future reconstructions.

Citation: Murphy, C., Broderick, C., Burt, T. P., Curley, M., Duffy, C., Hall, J., Harrigan, S., Matthews, T. K. R., Macdonald, N., McCarthy, G., McCarthy, M. P., Mullan, D., Noone, S., Osborn, T. J., Ryan, C., Sweeney, J., Thorne, P. W., Walsh, S., and Wilby, R. L.: A 305-year continuous monthly rainfall series for the Island of Ireland (1711–2016), Clim. Past Discuss.,, in review, 2017.
Conor Murphy et al.
Conor Murphy et al.


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Short summary
This work reconstructs a 305 year rainfall record for Ireland and uses independent long-term observations and reconstructions of different climate variables to assess confidence in the new record. The series reveals remarkable variability in decadal rainfall – far in excess of the typical period of digitised data, including exceptionally wet winters in the 1730s, exceptionally wet summers in the 1750s, and the driest winter decade is found to coincide with the Laki eruption of 1783–1784.
This work reconstructs a 305 year rainfall record for Ireland and uses independent long-term...