Skip to main content

What is the status of Ireland’s atmosphere?

Greenhouse gas: GHG emissions continue to rise

Atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide are the highest observed since measurements began.

  • Background carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations reached 414 ppm in 2020 which is approximately a 50% increase compared to pre-industrial levels.
  • Methane (CH4) concentrations are at 1940 ppb - which is approximately a 170% increase compared to pre-industrial levels.
  • Nitrous oxide (N2O) concentrations are now above 330 ppb - which is approximately a 20% increase compared to pre-industrial levels.

Monthly mean carbon dioxide 1958-2018

Monthly mean concentration of carbon dioxide at Mauna Loa, Hawaii (1958–2018) and Mace Head research station, Ireland (1992–2018) [CSRI, 2020].

Air temperature: annual average air temperature is rising

The annual average surface air temperature in Ireland has increased by approximately 0.9°c over the last 120 years, with a rise in temperatures being observed in all seasons.

  • 15 of the top 20 warmest years on record have occurred since 1990
  • The length of warm spells has increased slightly over the last 60 years
Rainfall: annual average amounts of precipitation are increasing

Annual precipitation was 6% higher in the period 1989 to 2018, compared to the 30-year period 1961 to 1990. The decade 2006 to 2015 was the wettest on record.

Aerosols: aerosols affect climate dynamics in several ways and represent an area of great uncertainty in the understanding of the earth’s climate system

Atmospheric levels of sulphur over the 35-year period 1980 - 2015, as measured at Valentia observatory, Co. Kerry show an approximately 80% reduction, highlighting the success of regulation and technological advances.