Climatic Change

, Volume 106, Issue 2, pp 179–202 | Cite as

Sensitivity of discharge and flood frequency to twenty-first century and late Holocene changes in climate and land use (River Meuse, northwest Europe)

  • Philip J. WardEmail author
  • Hans Renssen
  • Jeroen C. J. H. Aerts
  • Peter H. Verburg
Open Access


We used a calibrated coupled climate–hydrological model to simulate Meuse discharge over the late Holocene (4000–3000 BP and 1000–2000 AD). We then used this model to simulate discharge in the twenty-first century under SRES emission scenarios A2 and B1, with and without future land use change. Mean discharge and medium-sized high-flow (e.g. Q99) frequency are higher in 1000–2000 AD than in 4000–3000 BP; almost all of this increase can be attributed to the conversion of forest to agriculture. In the twentieth century, mean discharge and the frequency of medium-sized high-flow events are higher than in the nineteenth century; this increase can be attributed to increased (winter half-year) precipitation. Between the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, anthropogenic climate change causes a further increase in discharge and medium-sized high-flow frequency; this increase is of a similar order of magnitude to the changes over the last 4,000 years. The magnitude of extreme flood events (return period 1,250-years) is higher in the twenty-first century than in any preceding period of the time-slices studied. In contrast to the long-term influence of deforestation on mean discharge, changes in forest cover have had little effect on these extreme floods, even on the millennial timescale.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Philip J. Ward
    • 1
    Email author
  • Hans Renssen
    • 2
  • Jeroen C. J. H. Aerts
    • 1
  • Peter H. Verburg
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute for Environmental Studies (IVM), Faculty of Earth and Life SciencesVU University AmsterdamAmsterdamThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Department of Earth Sciences, Faculty of Earth and Life SciencesVU University AmsterdamAmsterdamThe Netherlands

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