, Volume 72, Issue 1, pp 169-188
Date: 23 Oct 2013

Severe weather affecting European transport systems: the identification, classification and frequencies of events

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Abstract

Severe weather can have serious repercussions in the transport sector as a whole by increasing the number of accidents, injuries and other damage, as well as leading to highly increased travel times. This study, a component of the EU FP7 Project EWENT, delineates a Europe-wide climatology of adverse and extreme weather events that can be expected to affect the transport network. We first define and classify the relevant severe weather events by investigating the effects of hazardous conditions on different transportation modes and the infrastructure. Consideration is given to individual phenomena such as snowfall, heavy precipitation, heat waves, cold spells, wind gusts; a combined phenomenon, the blizzard, is also considered. The frequency of severe weather events, together with the changes in their spatial extension and intensity, is analyzed based on the E-OBS dataset (1971–2000) and the ERA-Interim reanalysis dataset (1989–2010). Northern Europe and the Alpine region are the areas most impacted by winter extremes, such as snowfall, cold spells and winter storms, the frequency of heavy snowfall. The frequency of hot days is highest in Southern Europe. Severe winds and blizzards are the most common over the Atlantic and along its shores. Although heavy rainfall may affect the whole continent on an annual basis, extreme precipitation events are relative sparse, affecting particularly the Alps and the Atlantic coastline. A European regionalization covering similar impacts on the transport network is performed.