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Weatherwatch: Extreme flooding on rise in Europe over past 20 years

Aftermath of flooding inside the Glenridding Hotel caused by Storm Desmond in December 2015.
Aftermath of flooding inside the Glenridding Hotel caused by Storm Desmond in December 2015. Photograph: McCaren/LNP/REX/Shutterstock

For the inhabitants of the Cumbrian village of Glenridding, the winter of 2015/16 was a miserable one. Storm Desmond brought the first deluge in December, turning the river into a raging torrent, sweeping through many properties, and cutting the village off from the outside world for a full two days. Storm Eva barrelled in a few weeks later, and Glenridding ended up awash three times in the space of four weeks.

So what is going on? Are extreme climate events becoming more frequent, or were the residents of Glenridding suffering a series of unlucky rolls of the dice?

To answer this question, Wouter Berghuijs, from ETH Zurich, and colleagues have been analysing streamflow statistics from all over the world, and totting up the number of extreme events in each catchment.

They have found that European rivers have experienced a 44% increase in extreme floods since 1995, suggesting that global warming has played a role.

Writing in the journal Environmental Research Letters, the scientists conclude that flood history is not a reliable predictor for future flood risk, and climate change needs to be taken into account too.

This article titled "Weatherwatch: Extreme flooding on rise in Europe over past 20 years" was written by Kate Ravilious, for The Guardian on Monday 12 February 2018 09.30pm


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