Extreme Floods

Key messages:

  • Extreme flood magnitude is expected to substantially increase over large parts of Central and Southern Europe, which can partly be explained by an increase in extreme rainfall
  • Extreme flood magnitude in Northern Europe caused by snow melt is expected to decrease due to less snow accumulation

Why is the content of this map important?

Floods have a major impact on livelihoods, either directly (human losses) or indirectly, such as economic losses (e.g. the 2013 floods in Central Europe resulted in over 12 bn loss). As researchers agree that future climate and the environment will change greatly, it is fundamental to study how this will impact flood risks.

Which sectors are affected by this result?

Several sectors are affected by floods, including transport and tourism, as well as infrastructures that cross over various sectors (e.g. buildings, flood defenses, etc.).

What is shown on the maps?

Flood magnitudes are expected to increase substantially over large parts of Central and Southern Europe, except for some regions (Bulgaria, Poland, South Spain) where the changes are not significant. These increases can partly be attributed to increases in extreme precipitation. North of 60°N, floods are projected to decrease in most of Finland, North-West Russia and North Sweden, though in South Sweden and some coastal areas of Norway there may be an increase in floods. The decreases in North Europe are mainly due to decreases in snow fall since here most of the floods are caused by spring snowmelt.

Details and further information:

These results are based on simulations from three hydrological models. The information for the reference and the +2°C global warming periods are given in m3/s (cubic meters per second). The relative change is expressed in percentages (%).

Additional information:

Based on their skills to simulate the extreme events, 3 hydrological models have been selected estimate extreme floods (Lisflood, E-Hype and VIC). These models were driven by the ensemble of the five mandatory climate simulations. Hence, the ensemble consists of 15 simulations in total.

The calculations are carried out and depicted only for the grid points where the output of all hydrological models is available.


Philippe Roudier

Joint Research Center - European Commission (JRC), Italy