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Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Volume 14, issue 7
Nat. Hazards Earth Syst. Sci., 14, 1921–1942, 2014
© Author(s) 2014. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
Nat. Hazards Earth Syst. Sci., 14, 1921–1942, 2014
© Author(s) 2014. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Research article 30 Jul 2014

Research article | 30 Jul 2014

Floods and climate: emerging perspectives for flood risk assessment and management

B. Merz1, J. Aerts2, K. Arnbjerg-Nielsen3, M. Baldi4, A. Becker5, A. Bichet6, G. Blöschl7, L. M. Bouwer8, A. Brauer1, F. Cioffi9, J. M. Delgado10, M. Gocht11, F. Guzzetti12, S. Harrigan13, K. Hirschboeck14, C. Kilsby15, W. Kron16, H.-H. Kwon17, U. Lall18, R. Merz19, K. Nissen20, P. Salvatti12, T. Swierczynski1, U. Ulbrich20, A. Viglione7, P. J. Ward2, M. Weiler21, B. Wilhelm22, and M. Nied1 B. Merz et al.
  • 1GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences, 14473 Potsdam, Germany
  • 2Institute for Environmental Studies, VU University Amsterdam, 1081HV Amsterdam, the Netherlands
  • 3Dept. of Env. Eng., Technical University of Denmark, Lyngby, Denmark
  • 4CNR-Institute of Biometeorology, 00185 Rome, Italy
  • 5Deutscher Wetterdienst, Offenbach am Main, Germany
  • 6University of Toronto, Physics Department, Toronto, Canada
  • 7Institute of Hydraulic Engineering and Water Resources Management, Vienna University of Technology, Vienna, Austria
  • 8Deltares, Delft, the Netherlands
  • 9DICEA, Department of Civil, Constructional & Environmental Engineering, University of Rome, La Sapienza, Rome, Italy
  • 10University of Potsdam, Institute of Earth and Environmental Science, Potsdam, Germany
  • 11Technische Universität Braunschweig, 38106 Braunschweig, Germany
  • 12CNR IRPI, 06128 Perugia, Italy
  • 13ICARUS, Dept. of Geography, National University of Ireland, Maynooth, Ireland
  • 14Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research, University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona, USA
  • 15School of Civil Engineering and Geosciences, Newcastle University, Newcastle, UK
  • 16Munich Re, 80802 Munich, Germany
  • 17Department of Civil Engineering, Chonbuk National University, Jeonju, Republic of Korea
  • 18Dept. of Earth & Env. Eng., Columbia University, New York, USA
  • 19Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research, Leipzig, Germany
  • 20Institute for Meteorology, Freie Universität Berlin, 12165 Berlin, Germany
  • 21Chair of Hydrology, Faculty of Environment and Natural Resources, University of Freiburg, Freiburg, Germany
  • 22EDYTEM, Université de Savoie, 73376 Le Bourget-du-Lac, France

Abstract. Flood estimation and flood management have traditionally been the domain of hydrologists, water resources engineers and statisticians, and disciplinary approaches abound. Dominant views have been shaped; one example is the catchment perspective: floods are formed and influenced by the interaction of local, catchment-specific characteristics, such as meteorology, topography and geology. These traditional views have been beneficial, but they have a narrow framing. In this paper we contrast traditional views with broader perspectives that are emerging from an improved understanding of the climatic context of floods. We come to the following conclusions: (1) extending the traditional system boundaries (local catchment, recent decades, hydrological/hydraulic processes) opens up exciting possibilities for better understanding and improved tools for flood risk assessment and management. (2) Statistical approaches in flood estimation need to be complemented by the search for the causal mechanisms and dominant processes in the atmosphere, catchment and river system that leave their fingerprints on flood characteristics. (3) Natural climate variability leads to time-varying flood characteristics, and this variation may be partially quantifiable and predictable, with the perspective of dynamic, climate-informed flood risk management. (4) Efforts are needed to fully account for factors that contribute to changes in all three risk components (hazard, exposure, vulnerability) and to better understand the interactions between society and floods. (5) Given the global scale and societal importance, we call for the organization of an international multidisciplinary collaboration and data-sharing initiative to further understand the links between climate and flooding and to advance flood research.

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