Natural Hazards

, Volume 91, Issue 3, pp 983–1002 | Cite as

Damaging flood severity assessment in Northern Portugal over more than 150 years (1865–2016)

  • Mónica Santos
  • Marcelo Fragoso
  • João A. Santos
Original Paper


Floods are a major natural hazard, with vast implications over a wide range of socio-economic activities. A harmonized post-flood classification is critical for a better understanding of this hazard, by providing homogeneous flood catalogues for future research on triggering mechanisms. We apply a flood severity index (FSI) to damaging floods in Northern Portugal over a 152-year period (1865–2016) and identify the most critical areas to flood occurrences. The index is a damage-based post-event assessment tool, which includes five categories ranging from minor flooding (1) to catastrophic flooding (5). FSI is applied to a historical damaging flood database with 2318 occurrences. In Northern Portugal, serious floods (3) are the most frequent typology, while catastrophic floods are typically river floods occurring in the Douro basin. Overall, damaging flood occurrences are favoured by the positive phase of the East Atlantic pattern and by the negative phase of the North Atlantic Oscillation. Furthermore, the north-western areas reveal higher concentrations of damaging flood occurrences, mainly due to higher population density, higher precipitation values and more flood plain areas. In particular, 48% of all occurrences are concentrated in the Porto Metropolitan Area, mainly the Porto city centre and nearby riverside areas of the Douro River. High-population density and heavily urbanized areas lead to greater exposure to flood risk, whereas the most peripheral municipalities, with large agricultural/forested areas, show much lower numbers of damaging floods. FSI is tool to communicate the magnitude of the flood risk and is, therefore, of foremost relevance to civil protection and risk management.


Flood severity index Damaging flood Flood database Documentary sources Northern Portugal Porto Metropolitan Area 



This work was supported by the R&D Project INTERACT—Integrative Research in Environment, Agro-Chain and Technology, research line BEST, NORTE-01-0145-FEDER-000017, co-funded by FEDER (Fundo Europeu de Desenvolvimento Regional) through NORTE 2020 (Programa Operacional Regional do Norte 2014/2020) and by the project FORLAND—Disastrous floods and landslides in Portugal: driving forces and applications for land use planning (PTDC/ATP-GEO/1660/2014). NCEP Reanalysis data were provided by the NOAA/OAR/ESRL PSD, Boulder, Colorado, USA, from their website at

Supplementary material

11069_2017_3166_MOESM1_ESM.docx (1.7 mb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 1786 kb)


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Geography and Spatial PlanningUniversidade de LisboaLisbonPortugal
  2. 2.Centre for the Research and Technology of Agro-Environmental and Biological Sciences, CITABUniversidade de Trás-os-Montes e Alto Douro, UTADVila RealPortugal

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