I think it is fair to say that Ireland weather is pretty notorious. It is known for being both weepingly wet and laughingly unpredictable. A devilish combination if ever there was one. But does it deserve this infamous reputation? Probably not, but the Irish do such a good job complaining about it, that everyone is convinced it does. Including, the Irish themselves. The following are some facts about weather in Ireland.
Average annual rainfall in Ireland runs to 30 inches. Quite a lot you may think. But Seattle, Washington gets 36in, New York, 45in (ok, 28in of that is snow) and Miami gets a whopping 60in of rainfall! No snow there. So Ireland isn't that wet after all. In fact, the average Earthly rainfall is 34in, so we are begrudgingly below average. So why does everyone think Ireland is so wet when it is in fact below average? The reason is that most “normal” climates get all or most of their rain out the way in one season, leaving the remainder of the year mostly dry. Not in Ireland. We like to spread it throughout the whole year. We have the warm Atlantic Gulf Stream to thank for that. It keeps our winters mild, our summers cool and makes both equally likely to produce a shower of rain at any time.
Which brings me to the unpredictable nature of Ireland weather. OK, here I must raise my hands in surrender, or at least Irish Weather would if it had a conscience. Everything you have heard is true, no point denying it. Beautiful and sunny in the morning, grey and torrential by the afternoon. It would be great if you could set your watch by it, but you most certainly cannot. The reverse could just as easily be the case. But, most likely the reverse in various guises numerous times over before noon will be true. Hence, the favorite phrase of those brave men and women at the Irish Meteorological Office when forecasting the weather: "sunny spells and scattered showers". Spring and autumn are particularly schizophrenic, when hail and thunder may be experienced in the same day as the aforementioned sunny spells.
Many people ask us: "What is the weather like in Ireland in May, or September?" The short, honest answer is we haven't got a clue. Every year is different. Sure, we have seasons, but our seasons are generalizations at best. They are a reasonable indication of temperature and whether schools will be open, but little more. I can't speak for my colleagues, but I usually base my answer to the above question on my memory of that month's weather the previous year, while couching my response in language supplied by our weather lawyer. Take this summer so far. May this year was depressingly wet. It rained almost every day. By the end of the month the entire population of Ireland was on the brink of psychological breakdown. Thankfully, the first two weeks of June were fantastic, but the following two were nondescript - overcast, but dry for the most part. July was up and down, days of rain followed by days of intense heat and sunshine. August started well, but took a turn for the worse this week. What will it be like next week? No one knows.
So what is a sane person to do? The Irish answer is to talk about it. I'm not sure if we actually love talking about the weather, but it certainly makes for an easy conversation opener. Friends who have known each other 50 years will comment on the day's weather before moving to more important topics. But it works just as well for strangers on a train. It is the common burden or joy we all share, depending on the day. You will never offend anyone by commenting on the weather since no one cam claim credit and no one can be blamed.
But what can you do as a visitor to Ireland to prepare for Ireland weather? Well, I was sitting under the awning outside a coffee shop one afternoon last week. It had started raining an hour previously. Prior to that it had been sunny and warm for almost four days. It had seemed like sunshine was our right. I noticed, as I sipped my latte, that all the locals were dashing about in tee-shirts, sun dresses and sleeveless blouses getting rather drenched. On the other hand, every tourist I saw was strolling around sporting rainproof jackets, quite unperturbed by the sudden change in the weather. The moral of this story? The answer to this question? Forget the Irish, be like the tourists. Be prepared!
Tips for Tackling Weather in Ireland
- Bring a rainproof jacket and shoes (and trousers if you intend golfing, hiking or cycling).
- Bring layers of clothes that you can put on or take off as the weather dictates.
- Watch the weather forecast so you know what to expect the next day. It is on after every news bulletin on tv and is often the funniest thing you will see all day. The forecasts are normally very accurate. Our weathermen and women are probably the best in the world.
- If in doubt, ask a farmer.
- Never, ever complain about the heat, dryness, humidity or sunshine.
- Check out the Irish Meteorological Service website