Articles | Volume 13, issue 9
30 Sep 2009
 | 30 Sep 2009

Simulating past droughts and associated building damages in France

T. Corti, V. Muccione, P. Köllner-Heck, D. Bresch, and S. I. Seneviratne

Abstract. Droughts can induce important building damages due to shrinking and swelling of soils, leading to costs as large as for floods in some regions. Previous studies have focused on damage data analysis, geological or constructional aspects. Here, a study investigating the climatic aspects of soil subsidence damage is presented for the first time. We develop a simple model to examine if the meteorology has a considerable impact on the interannual variability of damages from soil subsidence in France. We find that the model is capable of reproducing yearly drought-induced building damages for the time period 1989–2002, thus suggesting a strong meteorological influence. Furthermore, our results reveal a doubling of damages in these years compared to 1961–1990, mainly as a consequence of increasing temperatures. This indicates a link to climate change. We also apply the model to the extreme summer of 2003, which caused a further increase in damage by a factor four, according to a preliminary damage estimate. The simulation result for that year shows strong damage underestimation, pointing to additional sources of vulnerability. Damage data suggest a higher sensitivity to soil subsidence of regions first affected by drought in the 2003 summer, possibly due to a lack of preparedness and adaptation. This is of strong concern in the context of climate change, as densely populated regions in Central Europe and North America are expected to become newly affected by drought in the future.