PerspectiveClimate Change

Measuring the changing pulse of rivers

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Science  11 Aug 2017:
Vol. 357, Issue 6351, pp. 552
DOI: 10.1126/science.aao2441

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River flood risks are expected to rise as climate change intensifies the global hydrological cycle and more people live in floodplains (1). Changing risk may be revealed by trends in flood frequency, magnitude, or seasonality, as well as by shifts in the mechanisms that generate inundations (2). However, detection and attribution of climate signals in flood records is often hampered by brief, incomplete, or poor-quality flood data (3). Additionally, it can be difficult to disentangle the effects of changing climate, land cover, channel morphology, and human activities (2, 4). On page 588 of this issue, Blöschl et al. (5) overcome these problems through a consistent pan-European assessment of observed flood seasonality trends between 1960 and 2010. They thus provide the first evaluation of how climatic changes are influencing flood regimes at the continental scale.