For the first time, an international study published in Nature, has demonstrated significant changes to high water flows across Europe over the last 50 years. Irstea contributed to the study by sharing its knowledge of hydrometric stations and of the impact of climate change on river regimes.
River floods cause considerable damage. Globally, it is estimated that the annual cost of this damage exceeds 100 billion dollars, and this sum continues to grow. How is climate change affecting flood intensity? Until now, existing studies have been unable to identify consistent continental-scale trends, particularly due to the limited spatial coverage of hydrometric stations.1
This study involving 35 European research groups provides a database containing flood peaks recorded at more than 3,700 hydrometric stations, more than 200 of which were in France. Results showed that the changes observed in Europe over recent decades are partly due to climate change. However, their impact is felt differently across the various European regions. Researchers noted an increase in flooding in northwestern Europe alongside a decrease in flooding in southern and eastern Europe.
Climate change - the deciding factor
Previous research has already shown that climate change is affecting the flood season. The aim of this study was to identify whether climate change was also having an impact on flood intensity. Researchers evaluated data from 3,738 hydrometric stations across Europe over a period of 50 years (1960-2010).