Climate change track in river floods in Europe
- 1Institute for Agricultural and Forest Environment, Polish Academy of Sciences, Bukowska 19, 60-809 Poznań, Poland
- 2Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, Telegrafenberg 31, 14473 Potsdam, Germany
Abstract. A holistic perspective on changing river flood risk in Europe is provided. Economic losses from floods have increased, principally driven by the expanding exposure of assets at risk. Climate change (i.e. observed increase in precipitation intensity, decrease of snowpack and other observed climate changes) might already have had an impact on floods. However, no gauge-based evidence had been found for a climate-driven, widespread change in the magnitude/frequency of floods during the last decades. There are strong regional and sub-regional variations in the trends. Moreover, it has not been generally possible to attribute rain-generated peak streamflow trends to anthropogenic climate change.
Physical reasoning suggests that projected increases in the frequency and intensity of heavy rainfall would contribute to increases in rain-generated local floods, while less snowmelt flooding and earlier spring peak flows in snowmelt-fed rivers are expected. However, there is low confidence in future changes in flood magnitude and frequency resulting from climate change. The impacts of climate change on flood characteristics are highly sensitive to the detailed nature of those changes.
Discussion of projections of flood hazard in Europe is offered. Attention is drawn to a considerable uncertainty - over the last decade or so, projections of flood hazard in Europe have largely changed.