Major floods may be waning in Europe.In August 2002, parts of central Europe Central Europe is the region lying between the variously and vaguely defined areas of Eastern and Western Europe. In addition, Northern, Southern and Southeastern Europe may variously delimit or overlap into Central Europe. experienced unprecedented flooding after record rains fell upon saturated soils and brimming reservoirs. Damages on the continent added up to more than 25 billion Euros, and in Dresden, Germany, the Elbe River Elbe River
Czech Labe ancient Albis
River, central Europe. One of the continent's major waterways, it rises in the Krkonoše (Giant) Mountains on the border of the Czech Republic and Poland and flows southwest across Bohemia. reached 9.4 meters above flood stage Flood stage is the point at which the surface of a river, creek, or other body of water has risen to a sufficient level to cause damage. When a body of water rises to this level, it is considered a flood event. , a level not seen since the Middle Ages.
Despite the 2002 season, a new analysis by German researchers suggests that extreme summer floods in the region aren't becoming more frequent. In fact, the scientists say, widespread inundations have been on the wane for the past century or so.
For the study, team leader Manfred Mudelsee of the University of Leipzig The University of Leipzig (German Universität Leipzig), located in Leipzig in the Free State of Saxony (former Kingdom of Saxony), Germany, is one of the oldest universities in Europe. in Germany and his coworkers considered regional floods along the central stretches of the Elbe and Oder Rivers dating back at least 700 years. The scientists culled data from historical archives and modern instruments, and they analyzed summer and winter floods separately because they have different causes.
Floods that occur from May through October typically arise during or just after long periods of precipitation, says Mudelsee. The frequency of such inundations hasn't changed significantly on the Elbe since 1820 or on the Oder since 1920. Other researchers have reported 10 major summer floods on the Elbe in the past 500 years, and 4 of those high-water events occurred between 1500 and 1550.
So-called winter floods in the region have declined, says Mudelsee. These cold-season floods are often caused by ice dams that form when frozen rivers break up in the spring. Before 1850, 91 of 103 severe winter floods on the Elbe, and 28 of 34 of those on the Oder, were influenced by river ice. Between 1930 and 1970, however, just 2 of 13 winter floods on the Elbe and 3 of 20 on the Oder were affected by ice.
Mudelsee and his colleagues also estimated the ameliorating influence of reservoirs and other flood-control measures and found that they had little effect during large inundations. The scientists report their findings in the Sept. 11 Nature.
"I'm not surprised that there's not been a rise in floods," says Phil Jones
Philip D. Jones (1952-) is a climatologist at the University of East Anglia, notable for maintaining of the time series of the instrumental temperature record , a climatologist cli·ma·tol·o·gy
The meteorological study of climates and their phenomena.
clima·to·log at the University of East Anglia “UEA” redirects here. For other uses, see UEA (disambiguation).
Academically, it is one of the most successful universities founded in the 1960s, consistently ranking amongst Britain's top higher education institutions; 19th in the Sunday Times University League Table 2006 in Norwich, England. Current a mounts of precipitation aren't very different from those measured during other wet periods of the past 2 centuries. Modern floods may appear more serious than past ones largely because more people live on floodplains now than in earlier periods, he notes.
Results of many computerized climate models suggest that continuation of the current increase in average global temperature will boost evaporation from the oceans. An accompanying rise in precipitation could increase the frequency and severity of floods, some scientists say.
"I'm convinced the climate is changing, but I'm not convinced that the frequency of floods has changed," says Kenneth W. Potter, an environmental engineer at the University of Wisconsin-Madison “University of Wisconsin” redirects here. For other uses, see University of Wisconsin (disambiguation).
A public, land-grant institution, UW-Madison offers a wide spectrum of liberal arts studies, professional programs, and student activities. .