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https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2020-396
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2020-396
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

  18 Aug 2020

18 Aug 2020

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This preprint is currently under review for the journal HESS.

Do small and large floods have the same drivers of change? A regional attribution analysis in Europe

Miriam Bertola1, Alberto Viglione2, Sergiy Vorogushyn3, David Lun1, Bruno Merz3,4, and Günter Blöschl1 Miriam Bertola et al.
  • 1Institute of Hydraulic Engineering and Water Resources Management, Vienna University of Technology, Karlsplatz 13, 1040 Vienna, Austria
  • 2Department of Environment, Land and Infrastructure Engineering (DIATI), Polytechnic University of Turin, Corso Duca degli Abruzzi 24, 10129 Turin, Italy
  • 3GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences, Hydrology section, Telegrafenberg, 14473 Potsdam, Germany
  • 4Institute for Environmental Sciences and Geography, University of Potsdam, Karl-Liebknecht-Straße 24-25, 14476 Potsdam, Germany

Abstract. Recent studies have shown evidence of increasing and decreasing trends in mean annual floods and flood quantiles across Europe. Studies attributing observed changes in flood peaks to their drivers have mostly focused on mean annual floods. This paper proposes a new framework for attributing flood changes to potential drivers, as a function of return period (T), in a regional context. We assume flood peaks to follow a non-stationary regional Gumbel distribution, where the median flood and the 100-year growth factor are used as parameters. They are allowed to vary in time and between catchments as a function of the drivers quantified by covariates. The elasticities of floods with respect to the drivers and the contributions of the drivers to flood changes are estimated by Bayesian inference. The prior distributions of the elasticities of flood quantiles to the drivers are estimated by hydrological reasoning and from the literature. The attribution model is applied to European flood and covariate data and aims at attributing the observed flood trend patterns to specific drivers for different return periods. We analyse flood discharge records from 2370 hydrometric stations in Europe over the period 1960–2010. Extreme precipitation, antecedent soil moisture and snowmelt are the potential drivers of flood change considered in this study. Results show that, in northwestern Europe, extreme precipitation mainly contributes to changes in both the median (q2) and 100-year flood (q100), while the contributions of antecedent soil moisture are of secondary importance. In southern Europe, both antecedent soil moisture and extreme precipitation contribute to flood changes, and their relative importance depends on the return period. Antecedent soil moisture is the main contributor to changes in q2, while the contributions of the two drivers to changes in larger floods (T > 10 years) are comparable. In eastern Europe, snowmelt drives changes in both q2 and q100.

Miriam Bertola et al.

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Miriam Bertola et al.

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Short summary
We estimate the contribution of extreme precipitation, antecedent soil moisture and snowmelt to changes in small and large floods across Europe. In northwestern and eastern Europe, changes in small and large floods are driven mainly by one single driver (i.e. extreme precipitation and snowmelt, respectively). In southern Europe both antecedent soil moisture and extreme precipitation significantly contribute to flood changes and their relative importance depends on flood magnitude.
We estimate the contribution of extreme precipitation, antecedent soil moisture and snowmelt to...
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