Britain to suffer worst climate-induced flooding in Europe

Climate change will see parts of northern Britain experience a larger increase in flooding than any other region in Europe, a first-of-its-kind study has revealed.


After analysing 50 years’ worth of data, scientists from 24 countries concluded that flooding is becoming more severe in northwestern Europe, but less so in southeastern Europe.

They predict that flooding variations will range from a 11% increase in northern England and southern Scotland, to a 23% reduction in parts of Russia.

This is because the soil in central and northwestern Europe is becoming wetter and less able to hold excess water due to increased precipitation, while the opposite is true in southern Europe.

Published in the journal Nature, the study provides the clearest evidence yet of the link between climate change and flooding in Europe, according to the researchers.

"We already knew that climate change is shifting the timing of floods in a year, but the key question had been: Does climate change also control the magnitude of flood events?" said study lead author, professor Günter Blöschl of the Vienna University of Technology.

“Our study did in fact find there are consistent patterns of flood change across Europe and these are in line with predicted climate change impacts, such as a contrast between increasing severity of flooding in the north and decreases in the south.”

The research involved a large-scale collaboration between almost 50 scientists from 35 institutions, analysing 3,738 flood measurements recorded in Europe between 1960 and 2010.

If the trends in changing severity of flooding continue into the future, the researchers warned that major increases in flood risk can be expected in many regions of Europe. 

They said that the total annual bill from flood damage – estimated currently to be $100bn (£82bn) worldwide – is continuing to rise, and that their findings should be included in future flood management strategies.

“This is part of a continent-wide pattern of changes in flooding which is in line with what we may expect in a warming world,” said study co-author, Jamie Hannaford, principle hydrologist at the UK’s Centre for Ecology & Hydrology.

“This highlights the importance of long-term hydrological monitoring and the benefits of data sharing and collaboration at a European scale in order to better understand the mechanisms behind observed changes in flooding.” 


Image credit | iStock

Chris Seekings is a reporter for TRANSFORM

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