Northern Ireland

Predictions of climate change in Northern Ireland during the 21st century warn of higher temperatures, increased rainfall and faster evaporation rates.

Overall, winter gales may well become less common, however there maybe an increase in the frequency of very severe gales. Sea levels are expected to rise by between 13 and 74cm by the middle of this century.

As with all the UK regions, climate change in Northern Ireland is likely to have both positive and negative impacts on the natural and man-made environment. Some key impacts so far identified include:


Wildlife and Ecology

The impact of climate change on ecology and biodiversity in Northern Ireland may be substantial, particularly given the unique biological communities to be found in this region. Increased rainfall may allow faster bog growth, extending the availability of this threatened habitat.

Specific impacts, both on land and in the sea, may include:

  • The invasion of plant and animal species from the south and the replacement of more cold-adapted species.
  • Earlier breeding of some bird species, allowing the potential for extra broods in a year.
  • Severe storms may alter the age structure of forests in Northern Ireland, selecting for younger trees.
  • Appearance of new migratory species.
  • Increased rainfall and run-off may change freshwater plant and animal species composition on a local scale.
  • Some shellfish species, currently unable to spawn in the water around Northern Ireland, may benefit from an increased breeding range as a result of elevated water temperatures. The impact of such species introduction on local biodiversity is uncertain.
  • Fish species composition may alter as some species' ranges extend northwards with higher sea temperatures.


Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries

  • Increasing temperatures may allow more cultivation of spring cereals.
  • An increasing threat from pests may necessitate more pesticide use.
  • Wetter winters may hinder hay and silage making in some areas.
  • The composition of fish catches may change as new species extend their ranges north into Northern Irish waters, while the ranges of existing species retreat northwards away from the elevated sea temperatures.
  • The spawning patterns of some commercial fish species, such as salmon, may be altered by higher water temperatures.



  • Increased rainfall and resultant flooding may threaten an increasing number of households.
  • Greater rainfall may also adversely affect the operation of sewage and septic tank systems.
  • The number of dry days for building construction, and the land available may both be reduced by increased rainfall.
  • Heating bills may well fall as a result of warmer temperatures and a shortened winter period.


Social and Public Health

  • Warmer temperatures may alter social behaviour, with a transition to more outdoor socialising during the summer months.
  • Increased international human migration, coupled with a wetter and warmer climate, may result in the arrival and spread of new diseases.
  • More wet days may increase the number of road accidents, while more frequent storm events could also increase casualty numbers.


  • Loss of working days in construction and similar outdoor industries due to increased rainfall.
  • Increased cost of disease prevention due to introduction of new species and diseases.
  • Savings in fuel costs due to warmer temperatures.
  • Increased spending on flood control and defence.
  • Rising insurance costs for buildings in potential flood areas.
  • Greater productivity for forestry and some types of agriculture.
  • Greater costs in maintaining good water and sewerage services given increased rainfall.
  • Increased tourism due to increased number of warm summer days and shorter winter season, though sport angling may be adversely affected.


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