Met Éireann Weather Warning System Explained
The issue of Weather Warnings is perhaps the most important function of any National Meteorological Service and lies at the heart of the suite of Public Weather Services provided to citizens by Met Éireann. The core rationale for issuing Weather Warnings is to protect the lives and livelihoods of all of the nation’s citizens, and to mitigate damage to property and disturbance to economic activity at times of severe weather.
The philosophy underlying the issuance of Weather Warnings by National Meteorological Services has developed considerably over the past few decades. Internationally, much research has been carried out on the effects of extreme weather, and this has led to an increased focus on the “Impacts” of extreme weather rather on the statistical meteorological rarity of the extremities themselves. Thus the timing and location of the occurrence of extreme weather can significantly affect the impact which extreme weather may have on society, or on the economy.
Another international development of significance is the maturing of the MeteoAlarm system, (see www.meteoalarm.eu) which implies greater co-ordination of warnings across Europe and the coherence of warnings across national boundaries. This has led to the adoption of a common European framework and terminology for the presentation of Weather Warnings, and the alignment of national Weather Warnings Systems with the international MeteoAlarm framework where this is possible.
Nationally, the development of the Major Emergency Management framework and the designation of Local Authorities, the HSE and An Garda Siochána as the “Principal Response Agencies” (PRAs) with respect to emergency situations (of which a significant percentage will be the result of severe weather) has brought structure and formality to the allocation of responsibility for Emergency Response.
In response to these developments, the Weather Warnings system provided by Met Éireann has been updated and aligned fully with European best practice and with MeteoAlarm.
How are the Weather Warnings categorised?
Weather Warnings are presented in three categories:
What weather conditions are warned for?
Hazards deriving from the following weather-related types are covered by Met Éireann’s weather warnings system:
The system also covers warnings for the following weather-related phenomena (which will all be classified as YELLOW level - Weather Alerts only)
When will Weather Alerts/Warnings be issued?
Weather Alerts and Warnings will be issued whenever weather conditions meeting the detailed thresholds defined below are anticipated within a 48-hr period. There will be judgement required on the part of the forecaster who must weigh up the possible severity of the weather conditions and the likelihood of their occurrence. However on some occasions (weekends, holiday periods) it may be necessary to issue Weather Warnings beyond this 48-hr horizon, if sufficient certainty derives from examination of the weather charts. Normally, however, a Weather Advisory (see below) will be used to flag severe weather beyond 48hrs and Advisories will normally anticipate only “Orange” or “Red” criteria weather hazards.
Given that the thrust of the Weather Warnings service is on potential “Impacts” of weather rather than on the numerical values attained by the weather elements themselves, it may on occasion be appropriate to issue warnings at a level higher than that strictly justified by the anticipated weather elements. An example would be when heavy rain was expected which might not quite meet the “Orange Warning” criteria but which might give rise to significant flooding because of already saturated ground, or because of a combination of rain, wind and tide in a coastal location.
Weather Advisories may be issued to provide early information on potential hazardous weather beyond the 48hr horizon. They may also be employed when a sum of weather elements acting together create a significant hazard, e.g. winds which may not be up to warnings strength but which, when combined with high tides and significant swell, generate a risk of flooding. Another possible use would be to advise of wind speed and direction on occasions of Volcanic Ash contamination. They might also be used to advise of expected significant medium-term accumulations of rain during a very unsettled period when soils are known to be saturated. The issue of Weather Warnings and Weather Advisories is at all times down to the judgement of the Met Éireann forecasters.
Weather Warning Criteria
The criteria for the different warnings levels (Yellow, Orange, Red) and the different weather elements (Rain, Wind etc) are laid out in the tables below.
Categories of Severe Weather encompassed by the National Weather Warnings System, together with the associated criteria: