Articles | Volume 19, issue 6
Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 19, 2673–2684, 2015

Special issue: Floods and their changes in historical times – a European...

Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 19, 2673–2684, 2015

Research article 09 Jun 2015

Research article | 09 Jun 2015

Flooding in river mouths: human caused or natural events? Five centuries of flooding events in the SW Netherlands, 1500–2000

A. M. J. de Kraker A. M. J. de Kraker
  • VU-University, CLUE (Research Institute for the Heritage and History of the Cultural Landscape and Urban Environment), De Boelelaan 1081 HV, Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Abstract. This paper looks into flood events of the past 500 years in the SW Netherlands, addressing the issue of what kind of flooding events have occurred and which ones have mainly natural causes and which ones are predominantly human induced. The flood events are classified into two major categories: (a) flood events that were caused during storm surges and (b) flood events which happened during warfare. From both categories a selection of flood events has been made. Each flood event is discussed in terms of time, location, extent of the flooded area and specific conditions. Among these conditions, specific weather circumstances and how long they lasted, the highest water levels reached and dike maintenance are discussed as far as flood events caused during storm surges are concerned. Flood events during warfare as both offensive and defensive strategies are relevant; the paper demonstrates that although the strategic flood events obviously were man-made, the natural feature, being the use of fresh water or sea water, of these events also played a major role. Flood events caused during storm surge may have an obvious natural cause, but the extent of the flooding and damage it caused was largely determined by man.

Short summary
Natural floodings caused by storm floods also have important human components determining how disastrous they could be. Man-made floodings during warfare were only successful if natural conditions and factors were fully used. Strategic floodings during the 16th-17th centuries dramatically changed landscapes, from which valueble lessons were learnt to perfect this strategy in the 18th and 19th centuries.