The photo above - taken on Omey on Monday 23rd February 2015, at the height of a strong gale - isn't just bad visibility caused by driving rain.  It's driving SAND, a sand-storm - the wind carrying massive quantities of sand across the grass from the beach.

The erosion around our coastline is enormous these years, especially on the sandy margins. The erosion to the right, on Omey (all the photos here are from Omey Island), is on the west side, where there are a number of memorial crosses. These used to be near the coast but with a good deal of grassland between them and the sea. Now they're right on the edge. You can see the amount of land that has gone.

That erosion is caused mainly by the SEA: HIGH TIDES and powerful WAVES from the serious storms we've been experiencing. You may well have read about two recent studies (early 2015), one of which points to sinking land levels due to rebound from the Ice Age, and another, by Professor Myles Allen, pointing to a 25% increase in the probability of extreme weather events - arising from man-made causes.

This is a really serious cause of erosion, erosion, but it's not the only mechanism, or even necessarily the worst - on Omey Island and other sandy parts of our coastline, anyway. It does eat away enormous chunks during strong wind and very high tides. And it leaves exposed low cliffs, as well as sand and rocks. where once there was grass:

Here, the erosion is so severe that the width of grass between shore and wall (where vehicles pass) is no more than 5.5 metres.

And here, out beyond Pascal Whelan's, is the high causeway that used to be grassland; now there's a large hole in the ground.

The wind works on the cliffs, drying out the sand and blowing it away, so that the grass at the margins is unsupported, and collapses.

Maybe the worst form of erosion of all, though, comes from heavy rainfall onto coastal grassland with a sandy base. We seem to be seeing much more intense rain nowadays, making it hard for the land to cope. When there's a large volume of rain, it runs

down the grass into areas that are slightly lower (see photo below), drains into the sub-soil, and forms underground streams which drain away beneath the grass, and out onto the coastal rocks, from holes that look just like rabbit holes (above and right).

The damage being done by this rainwater draining away underground to the coast is enormous, and insidious.

When the underground streams wash the sandy sub-soil away, there's nothing left to support the land, and it starts to sink, in a long line, at right-angles to the shore (see right).

Soon, holes appear in the ground. If you were to shove a stick into the holes in the photo on the left, it would go down about three feet before hitting any sub-soil - AND this photo - along with others on this page - was taken right beside St Feichin's Well, which has been there since at least 600 A.D., and is now in grave danger.

(Note: Feb 2016:  During the early 2016 storms, the first of the stones in the walls around St Feichin's Well was dislodged by the waves running impeded up the sloping granite coastal margin. Thankfully, Feicin Mulkerrin, with the help of JJ Corbett, allocated local Lotto funding to the placement of a line of massive boulders plus infill behind, to create a rock barrier of about 5 metres between the Well and the bare rock coastline. This provides protection for now, and is welcome - more recent storms did remove some of the smaller boulders placed along coastline just to the west - but the protection in fron of the well itself held. PROTECTIVE WORK IS STILL REQUIRED URGENTLY TO ALLOW FOR DRAINAGE OF RAINWATER, AROUND THE OTHER THREE SIDES. WE GATHER THAT FEICIN HAS HELD DISCUSSIONS WITH THE OPW ABOUT THIS.)

When the underground run-off streams carry away sufficient sand - which they do remarkably quickly! -  the land collapses (see right - you can just see that this particular hole leads to the edge of the coast).

This process of erosion creates rows of parallel lines of collapsed land, sometimes 30-40 feet in length.  So what's left are rows of promontories of grassland, with their edges exposed to erosion from both sides; and soon they're eaten into from both sides - and, at the coastal edge, by the sea.

The photo on the right shows an isolated small island of grassland on what's now a sandy beach. This is between the west beach and St Feichin's Well.

The land is eroding at a tremendous rate now. It just goes to show that climate change isn't all about spectacular storms; when the intensity of rainfall increases to a point at which the land can't cope, things change fast.

I guess it's a mistake to assume that things will just go on as they have before. Things can change FAST!  I wonder what Omey Island will look like in 20 years, or 50, or maybe just 10?

Heather Greer

 St Feichin's Well