Articles | Volume 9, issue 4
17 Jul 2009
 | 17 Jul 2009

An analysis of the evolution of hydrometeorological extremes in newspapers: the case of Catalonia, 1982–2006

M. C. Llasat, M. Llasat-Botija, M. Barnolas, L. López, and V. Altava-Ortiz

Abstract. This contribution analyzes the evolution of perception of certain natural hazards over the past 25 years in a Mediterranean region. Articles from newspapers have been used as indicator. To this end a specific Spanish journal has been considered and an ACCESS database has been created with the summarized information from each news item. The database includes data such as the location of each specific article in the newspaper, its length, the number of pictures and figures, the headlines and a summary of the published information, including all the instrumental data. The study focused on hydrometeorological extremes, mainly floods and droughts, in the northeast of the Iberian Peninsula. The number of headlines per event, trends and other data have been analyzed and compared with "measured" information, in order to identify any bias that could lead to an erroneous perception of the phenomenon. The SPI index (a drought index based on standardized accumulated precipitation) has been calculated for the entire region, and has been used for the drought analysis, while a geodatabase implemented on a GIS built for all the floods recorded in Catalonia since 1900 (INUNGAMA) has been used to analyze flood evolution. Results from a questionnaire about the impact of natural hazards in two specific places have been also used to discuss the various perceptions between rural and urban settings. Results show a better correlation between the news about drought or water scarcity and SPI than between news on floods in Catalonia and the INUNGAMA database. A positive trend has been found for non-catastrophic floods, which is explained by decrease of the perception thresholds, the increase of population density in the most flood-prone areas and changes in land use.