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Hydrology and Earth System Sciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Discussion papers
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: research article 18 Oct 2019

Submitted as: research article | 18 Oct 2019

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal Hydrology and Earth System Sciences (HESS).

Flood trends in Europe: are changes in small and big floods different?

Miriam Bertola1, Alberto Viglione2, Julia Hall1, 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 Environmental Engineering, Land and Infrastructure, Polytechnic University of Turin, Corso Duca degli Abruzzi 24, 10129 Torino, Italy

Abstract. Recent studies have revealed evidence of trends in the median or mean flood discharge in Europe over the last five decades, with clear and coherent regional patterns. The aim of this study is to assess whether trends also occurred for larger return periods accounting for the effect of catchment scale. We analyze 2370 flood records, selected from a newly-available pan-European flood database, with record length of at least 40 years over the period 1960–2010 and with contributing catchment area ranging from 5 to 100 000 km2. To estimate regional flood trends, we use a non-stationary regional flood frequency approach consisting of a regional Gumbel distribution, whose median and growth factor can vary in time with different strengths for different catchment sizes. A Bayesian Monte Carlo Markov Chain (MCMC) approach is used for parameter estimation. We quantify regional trends (and the related sample uncertainties), for floods of selected return periods and for selected catchment areas, across Europe and for three regions where coherent flood trends have been identified in previous studies. Results show that, in the Atlantic region, the trends in flood magnitude are generally positive. In small catchments (up to 100 km2), the 100-year flood increases more than the median flood, while the opposite is observed in medium and large catchments, where even some negative trends appear, especially over the southern part of the Atlantic region. In the Mediterranean region flood trends are generally negative. The 100-year flood decreases less than the median flood and, in the small catchments, the median flood decreases less compared to the large catchments. Over Eastern Europe the regional trends are negative and do not depend on the return period, but catchment area plays a substantial role: the larger the catchment, the more negative the trend. The process causalities on the effects of return period and catchment area on the flood trends are discussed.

Miriam Bertola et al.
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Miriam Bertola et al.
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Short summary
We investigate changes occurred in small vs. big flood events and in small vs. large catchments across Europe in the last five decades. Annual maximum discharge series between 1960 and 2010 from 2370 gauges in Europe are analysed. Distinctive patterns of flood regime change are identified for large regions across Europe, which depend on flood magnitudes and catchment size.
We investigate changes occurred in small vs. big flood events and in small vs. large catchments...