The role of climate variability in extreme floods in Europe

G.G.N. Guimaraes Nobre, B. Jongman, J.C.J.H. Aerts, P.J. Ward

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Climate variability is shown to be an important driver of spatial and temporal changes in hydrometereological variables in Europe. However, the influence of climate variability on flood damage has received little attention. We investigated the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO), the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO), and the East Atlantic pattern (EA) during their neutral, positive, and negative phases, to understand their relationships with four flood indicators: Occurrence of Extreme Rainfall, Intensity of Extreme Rainfall, Flood Occurrence, and Flood Damage. We found that positive and negative phases of NAO and EA are associated with more (or less) frequent and intense seasonal extreme rainfall over large areas of Europe. The relationship between ENSO and the Occurrence of Extreme Rainfall and Intensity of Extreme Rainfall in Europe is much smaller than the relationship with NAO or EA, but still significant in some regions. We show that Flood Damage and Flood Occurrence have strong links with climate variability, especially in southern and eastern Europe. Therefore, when investigating flooding across Europe, all three indices of climate variability should be considered. Future research should focus on their joint influence on flood risk. The potential inclusion of seasonal forecasts of indices of climate variability could be effective in forecasting flood damage.
Original languageEnglish
Article number084012
JournalEnvironmental Research Letters
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 2 Aug 2017


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