Study links climate change to flooding

An international research project led by the Vienna University of Technology (TU Wien) has identified a link between climate change and flooding. Worldwide, river flooding causes over $100bn in damage, and this figure is rising. Until now, flooding showed no clear patterns or causal links. Thirty-five research groups have now determined that changes in the magnitude of flood event in recent decades can be attributed to climate change. However the changes in patterns differ depending on region.

According to the research team, in north-western Europe floods are becoming more severe, while in southern and eastern regions, flood magnitudes have tended to decrease. The study has observed data from 3,738 flood measurement stations across Europe from a period between 1960 and 2010. This data indicated that the measured changes range from 23.1 per cent decreases per decade to 11.4 per cent increases per decade. The shifts in magnitude in particular regions mean that some areas with less flood protection infrastructure could be at risk for property damage, while other areas with decreasing flood levels may see consequences in soil fertility.

According to the report, flood magnitudes are increasing due to increasing precipitation and soil becoming wetter. In areas where flood magnitudes are decreasing, the change is likely due to declining precipitation and higher temperatures which cause excess water evaporation from the soil. Further, frequent thunderstorms and deforestation have increased the risk for small river flooding. According to Günter Blöschl, the academic who led the study, “processes differ across Europe - but the regional patterns all correspond well with predicted climate change impacts.”

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