, Volume 36, Issue 1-2, pp 165-189

Summer Floods in Central Europe – Climate Change Track?

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In Central Europe, river flooding has been recently recognized as a major hazard, in particular after the 1997 Odra /Oder flood, the 2001 Vistula flood, and the most destructive 2002 deluge on the Labe/Elbe. Major recent floods in central Europe are put in perspective and their common elements are identified. Having observed that flood risk and vulnerability are likely to have grown in many areas, one is curious to understand the reasons for growth. These can be sought in socio-economic domain (humans encroaching into floodplain areas), terrestrial systems (land-cover changes – urbanization, deforestation, reduction of wetlands, river regulation), and climate system. The atmospheric capacity to absorb moisture, its potential water content, and thus potential for intense precipitation, are likely to increase in a warmer climate. The changes in intense precipitation and high flows are examined, based on observations and projections. Study of projected changes in intense precipitation, using climate models, for several areas of central Europe, and in particular, for drainage basins of the upper Labe/Elbe, Odra/Oder, and Vistula is reported. Significant changes have been identified between future projections and the reference period, of relevance to flood hazard in areas, which have experienced severe recent floodings.