Articles | Volume 18, issue 7
Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 18, 2735–2772, 2014
Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 18, 2735–2772, 2014

Review article 30 Jul 2014

Review article | 30 Jul 2014

Understanding flood regime changes in Europe: a state-of-the-art assessment

J. Hall1, B. Arheimer2, M. Borga3, R. Brázdil4,5, P. Claps6, A. Kiss1, T. R. Kjeldsen7, J. Kriaučiūnienė8, Z. W. Kundzewicz9,10, M. Lang11, M. C. Llasat12, N. Macdonald13,14, N. McIntyre15,*, L. Mediero16, B. Merz17, R. Merz18, P. Molnar19, A. Montanari20, C. Neuhold21, J. Parajka1, R. A. P. Perdigão1, L. Plavcová1,**, M. Rogger1, J. L. Salinas1, E. Sauquet11, C. Schär22, J. Szolgay23, A. Viglione1, and G. Blöschl1 J. Hall et al.
  • 1Institute of Hydraulic Engineering and Water Resources Management, Vienna University of Technology, Vienna, Austria
  • 2Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute, Norrköping, Sweden
  • 3Department of Land, Environment, Agriculture and Forestry, University of Padova, Padua, Italy
  • 4Institute of Geography, Masaryk University, Brno, Czech Republic
  • 5Global Change Research Centre, Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, Brno, Czech Republic
  • 6Department Environment, Land and Infrastructure Engineering (DIATI), Politecnico di Torino, Turin, Italy
  • 7Department of Architecture and Civil Engineering, University of Bath, Bath, UK
  • 8Laboratory of Hydrology, Lithuanian Energy Institute, Kaunas, Lithuania
  • 9Institute for Agricultural and Forest Environment, Polish Academy of Sciences, Poznan, Poland
  • 10Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, Potsdam, Germany
  • 11Irstea, UR HHLY, Hydrology-Hydraulics Research Unit, Rue de la Doua, Villeurbanne Cedex, France
  • 12Department of Astronomy and Meteorology, University of Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain
  • 13Department of Geography and Planning, School of Environmental Sciences, University of Liverpool, Liverpool, UK
  • 14Institute of Risk and Uncertainty, University of Liverpool, Liverpool, UK
  • 15Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Imperial College London, London, UK
  • 16Department of Civil Engineering: Hydraulic and Energy, Technical University of Madrid, Madrid, Spain
  • 17Helmholtz Centre Potsdam, GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences, Potsdam, Germany
  • 18Department for Catchment Hydrology, Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ, Halle, Germany
  • 19Institute of Environmental Engineering, ETH Zürich, Zurich, Switzerland
  • 20Department of Civil, Chemical, Environmental and Materials Engineering (DICAM), University of Bologna, Bologna, Italy
  • 21Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Management, Division VII/5 – Flood Control Management, Vienna, Austria
  • 22Institute for Atmospheric and Climate Science, ETH Zürich, Zurich, Switzerland
  • 23Department of Land and Water Resources Management, Slovak University of Technology, Bratislava, Slovakia
  • *now at: Centre for Water in the Minerals Industry, Sustainable Minerals Institute, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia
  • **now at: Institute for Systematic Botany and Ecology, Ulm University, Ulm, Germany

Abstract. There is growing concern that flooding is becoming more frequent and severe in Europe. A better understanding of flood regime changes and their drivers is therefore needed. The paper reviews the current knowledge on flood regime changes in European rivers that has traditionally been obtained through two alternative research approaches. The first approach is the data-based detection of changes in observed flood events. Current methods are reviewed together with their challenges and opportunities. For example, observation biases, the merging of different data sources and accounting for nonlinear drivers and responses. The second approach consists of modelled scenarios of future floods. Challenges and opportunities associated with flood change scenarios are discussed such as fully accounting for uncertainties in the modelling cascade and feedbacks. To make progress in flood change research, we suggest that a synthesis of these two approaches is needed. This can be achieved by focusing on long duration records and flood-rich and flood-poor periods rather than on short duration flood trends only, by formally attributing causes of observed flood changes, by validating scenarios against observed flood regime dynamics, and by developing low-dimensional models of flood changes and feedbacks. The paper finishes with a call for a joint European flood change research network.