Report

Changing climate shifts timing of European floods

+ See all authors and affiliations

Science  11 Aug 2017:
Vol. 357, Issue 6351, pp. 588-590
DOI: 10.1126/science.aan2506

You are currently viewing the abstract.

View Full Text

Flooding along the river

Will a warming climate affect river floods? The prevailing sentiment is yes, but a consistent signal in flood magnitudes has not been found. Blöschl et al. analyzed the timing of river floods in Europe over the past 50 years and found clear patterns of changes in flood timing that can be ascribed to climate effects (see the Perspective by Slater and Wilby). These variations include earlier spring snowmelt floods in northeastern Europe, later winter floods around the North Sea and parts of the Mediterranean coast owing to delayed winter storms, and earlier winter floods in western Europe caused by earlier soil moisture maxima.

Science, this issue p. 588 see also p. 552

Abstract

A warming climate is expected to have an impact on the magnitude and timing of river floods; however, no consistent large-scale climate change signal in observed flood magnitudes has been identified so far. We analyzed the timing of river floods in Europe over the past five decades, using a pan-European database from 4262 observational hydrometric stations, and found clear patterns of change in flood timing. Warmer temperatures have led to earlier spring snowmelt floods throughout northeastern Europe; delayed winter storms associated with polar warming have led to later winter floods around the North Sea and some sectors of the Mediterranean coast; and earlier soil moisture maxima have led to earlier winter floods in western Europe. Our results highlight the existence of a clear climate signal in flood observations at the continental scale.

View Full Text