20 Apr
  • By Alison Martha Fagan

Storm Emma – result of a climate change?

It was the beginning of March 2018 when Storm Emma collided with the Beast from the East hitting Ireland carrying blizzard like conditions. It caused Ireland to come to a complete standstill with a Red Weather warning in place. But where did Storm Emma and the Beast come from and what caused them? There’s long been thinking that the increasing amount of storms and extreme weather is linked to climate change and global warming but is this really the case? According to a meteorologist Storm Emma itself “originated in Portugal”; Storm Emma was in matter of fact caused by “area of low pressure” which contained strengthening winds and “plenty of precipitation” (1). However when this weather system met the Beast from the East it carried much stronger ramifications. The Beast from the East came from Siberia and significantly, according to forecaster Joanne Donnelly, “Precipitation at the north of the storm will be met with the Siberian winds sweeping in from the east – and this will create snow” (2). This in turn creates extreme weather conditions.

Storm Emma along with the Beast caused travel disruption and chaos across the board. But is this and other extreme weather related to climate change? The increase in storms in recent times might sway this opinion. The European Academie’s Advisory Science Council estimate that the world has witnessed a “four-fold increase in major flooding events since 1980” and moreover, more importantly “a doubling of significant storms, droughts and heat waves” (3) Furthermore they link the upsurge in such weather systems to a change in the earth’s climate. They argue greenhouse gases are primarily responsible for “driving these changes” (4).  Indeed the weather seems to have gone wild while across the globe.


But are these gases causing this? Freak storms such as the “biggest dust storm in living memory” (5) in Arizona in 2011 could be down to a change in the weather. The earth is heating up and moreover there is more moisture in the atmosphere, importantly observations say “long terms build up of greenhouse gases” is” trapping heat and warming up the lands, oceans and atmosphere” significantly however it is building up in increase in water vapour-more vapour more precipitation. (6). However, importantly as far as Snow Emma goes, it is changes in the overall jet stream that is imperative here. Joanne Donnelly stated storm Emma was the result of the overall disruption “in the jet stream” causing different storms from different areas. (7). This  disruption could be a direct link to the polar jet stream with “warm air altering the polar jet stream, adding lazy north-south meanders around the planet”, making in turn European winters colder. (8)

However not all scientists or experts are willing to make a direct link between extreme weather, or indeed snow Emma and climate change. They call it “climate weirding” seldom linking “one-off events to climate change” preferring to say “it loads the dice, making the extremes more likely” (9). With the intended meaning that in this era of global warming and climate change, we must expect the unexpected (10). Storm Emma is just one of those unexpected events.


  1. https://www.irishmirror.ie/news/irish-news/what-is-storm-emma-weather-12095338  accessed 15/04/2018
  2. https://www.irishmirror.ie/news/irish-news/what-is-storm-emma-weather-12095338  accessed 15/04/2018
  3. http://www.thejournal.ie/weather-storms-here-3916958-Mar2018/ accessed 15/04/18.
  4. http://www.thejournal.ie/weather-storms-here-3916958-Mar2018/ accessed 15/04/18.
  5. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/2012/09/extreme-weather-global-climate-change-effects/
  6. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/2012/09/extreme-weather-global-climate-change-effects/
  7. https://www.irishmirror.ie/news/irish-news/what-is-storm-emma-weather-12095338
  8. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/2012/09/extreme-weather-global-climate-change-effects/
  9. https://www.pressreader.com/ireland/irish-independent/20180228/281917363572144

Alison Fagan – a graduate of Trinity College Dublin who enjoys writing both fiction and non-fiction and am very concerned with social and world affairs