Global warm­ing al­ters tim­ing of floods in Europe: Study

Kuwait Times - - HEALTH & SCIENCE -

Global warm­ing is al­ter­ing the tim­ing of floods in Europe, mak­ing some rivers swell early and oth­ers later than usual, a phe­nom­e­non that im­pacts farm­ing and daily life across the re­gion, re­searchers said Thurs­day. The re­port in the US jour­nal Science is the largest Euro­pean study of its kind, and spans 50 years and a vast trove of data from over 4,000 hy­dro­met­ric sta­tions from 38 coun­tries.

“In the north-east of Europe, Swe­den, Fin­land and the Baltic States, floods now tend to oc­cur one month ear­lier than in the 1960s and 1970s,” said lead au­thor Guenter Bloeschl, a pro­fes­sor at the In­sti­tute of Hy­draulic En­gi­neer­ing and Wa­ter Re­sources Man­age­ment at the Vi­enna Uni­ver­sity of Tech­nol­ogy (TU Wien). “At that time, they typ­i­cally oc­curred in April, to­day in March. This is be­cause the snow melts ear­lier in the year than be­fore, as a re­sult of a warm­ing cli­mate.”

Win­ter floods along the At­lantic coast of west­ern Europe tend to oc­cur ear­lier, al­most in the autumn, be­cause max­i­mum soil mois­ture lev­els are now reached ear­lier in the year. Mean­while, floods in parts of north­ern Bri­tain, west­ern Ire­land, coastal Scan­di­navia and north­ern Ger­many now tend to oc­cur about two weeks later than they did two decades ago. Storms hit later in the win­ter than be­fore, a trend that is likely “as­so­ci­ated with a mod­i­fied air pres­sure gra­di­ent be­tween the equa­tor and the pole, which may also re­flect cli­mate warm­ing,” said the re­port.

And as the Mediter­ranean coast warms, coastal flood events in some re­gions oc­cur later in the season. “The tim­ing of the floods through­out Europe over many years gives us a very sen­si­tive tool for de­ci­pher­ing the causes of floods,” said Bloeschl. “We are thus able to iden­tify con­nec­tions that pre­vi­ously were purely spec­u­la­tive.”

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