Spring surprises

By Conor McTernan and Jenny Darmody

Spring has arrived and it offers a wide range of weird and wonderful experiences that we can embrace, especially as Ireland escapes the icy conditions that have affected mainland Europe. With DCU’s Reading Week on the horizon and offering the prospect of time off, spring sees a number of festivals happening both here and abroad.

The Big Freeze

We had a mild winter this year, and in comparison to last year’s snow-in with temperatures falling below -16 degrees, we got off very lightly indeed.

Now it’s spring and we’ve been blessed with sun showers while the rest of Europe has been gripped by a deep freeze which has claimed over 600 lives. The commercially vital River Danube has frozen over for hundreds of miles, while snow fell in Rome for the first time in 26 years.

It’s not climate change that’s causing this bizarre weather, but a naturally occurring climatic pattern called the Arctic Oscillation (AO). The pattern experiences two different phases; the negative phase in which there is high air pressure over the North Pole and low pressure over the mid-latitudes, and the positive phase which is the opposite. As the AO changes, it affects temperatures across Europe.

However, Emily Gleeson from the Research Department of Met Eireann says, “A negative phase does not always mean cold weather in northern Europe.” She explains that it is not as simple as that, and that “negative AO does not automatically mean colder weather for us.”

Spring break

Spring is the perfect time to re-accustom yourself with the great outdoors and go camping. A destination of choice could be Donegal, where the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) has been active and sighted. Its activity forecast can be followed online.

DCU’s Reading Week runs from Monday March 12th to Friday March 16th with weekends either side. If you don’t have too much academic work to be focusing on, this represents a great time to plan a short getaway abroad or a road trip at home.


The Las Fallas festival in Valencia runs from March 15th-19th, and sees the city taken over by a carnival of fiesta, fireworks, bonfires and parades, where people set fire to satirical papier-mâché figures.

The Budapest Spring Festival is Hungary’s largest and most prestigious, and attracts fans of classical music and jazz from all over the world. It takes place during the last two weeks of March.

And of course, St Patrick’s Day – perhaps the most internationally celebrated national day of all – is coming up.

The traditional parade, run as part of the St Patrick’s Festival, is science themed this year. “Our parade is based on the questions, ‘how,’ ‘what’ and ‘why’,” said the festival’s Michelle Kenny.

“Each parade company is given a question and they have to interpret it themselves.” Kenny says the questions include “Why do we dream?” and “What lives under the sea?”

The Irish Craft Beer Festival takes place at the RDS throughout the week of the festival. Expect fine craft beers and artesian food from across the land.

Spring is often overlooked as a fun time; it’s usually regarded as a transition between winter and summer. That’s not the case and, provided the weather remains as kind as it has been, there are plenty of things for the reveller to enjoy.

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