Ireland, at 32,595 square miles, is slightly smaller than the state of Indiana. It’s 174 miles across at its widest point. It has a population (Republic + N. Ireland) of 6.7 million – that compares to 10 million in Michigan. We focus on Ireland on St. Patrick’s Day – March 17. Here’s more on Patrick of Ireland.

Ireland is at a relatively high latitude. Dublin sits at 53°35′ N. That would put it over 400 miles north of Sault Ste. Marie. However, it’s not Arctic tundra. Ireland is warmed by the Gulf Stream. It has vibrant cities, beautiful countryside, hills, lakes, waterfalls and cliffs. The length of daylight varies greatly between summer (17 hours at the Summer Solstice with sunrise at 4:56 am and sunset at 9:56 pm) and winter (7 hours and 30 minutes of daylight at the Winter Solstice, with a sunrise of 8:38 am and a sunset at 4:08 pm). On the Winter Solstice, the sun only climbs 13° above the southern horizon at solar noon. For comparison, on March 17 (St. Patrick’s Day) in Grand Rapids MI the sun is at 13° above the horizon at 9:06 am and 6:33 pm.

Ireland – Moher Cliffs

Dublin, on the east side of the island has an average January high temperature of 47° and an average July high temperature of 67°. So, there’s only a 20-degree difference between winter and summer. Don’t expect to find a lot of snowblowers or outdoor swimming pools. Ireland is surrounded by a cool ocean. The water temperature of the ocean at Dublin reaches its lowest in early March at 47° and rises to a high of 59° in mid-late August. They can get warm and cold days, but those are not the norm. The warmest temperature ever in Dublin was 88° (some texts say 92° set way back in 1876) and the coldest was 4°.

Dublin is on the east side of the island, the drier side. They average around 30″ of precipitation per year, a little less than Grand Rapids. The west side of the island, the windward side, can get twice that much precipitation. Dublin averages 16 days a year when they see frozen precipitation, which can be snow, sleet or small hail. Significant accumulation of snow is rare. Thunderstorms are also rare.

Satellite picture of Ireland on a rare clear day – in summer, it’s really green

Ireland is truly a “green island”. It’s covered by lush, green grass and vegetation. Only about 10% of Ireland is forest. The 3 top exports (moneywise) from Ireland are 1) Pharmaceuticals: US$53.5 billion – 31.5% of total exports) 2) Organic chemicals: $35.6 billion (21%) 3) Optical, technical, medical apparatus: $15.2 billion (9%). Whiskey and beer don’t make the top ten in exports.

Met Éireann is Ireland’s National Meteorological Service. Here’s today’s forecast for Ireland.

If you’d like to visit Ireland…the sunniest months are May and June and the warmest day on average is July 26.

Rare satellite picture showing snow on the ground across Ireland

Ireland was swathed in white on December 22, 2010. When NASA’s Terra satellite passed overhead, the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instrument captured a true-color image of the snow. The overnight arrival of 15 cm (6 in) of snow at the Dublin airport forced its closure. Combined with the closure of the City of Derry airport, travel became quite difficult.

Ireland’s climate is moderated by the warm waters of the Gulf Stream, which flows off the western shore. Snow commonly falls only in the highest elevations; dustings may occur elsewhere a few times each year. Significant accumulations anywhere in the country are rare.

The winter of 2009-2010 was unusually cold and snowy. Called “The Big Freeze” by the British media, it brought widespread transportation problems, school closings, power failures and twenty five deaths. A low of -22.3°C (-8.1°F) was recorded on January 8, 2010, making it the coldest winter since 1978/79.

The winter of 2010-2011 threatened to be just as challenging. The earliest widespread snowfall since 1993 occurred on November 24, primarily affecting Great Britain and Scotland. Two days later snow began to cover Ireland, and the continuing harsh weather has taken a toll. It has disrupted air, road and rail travel, closed schools and businesses, and caused power outages. Livestock and horses have had difficulty finding grass to eat, some relying on volunteer feeding efforts for survival. Local temperature records were broken, including a new record low for Northern Ireland of -18.7°C (-2°F) at Castlederg on December 23.