New Research Confirms Potential Large-scale Flooding in Europe Due to Global Warming

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The drastically changing environment is a clear indication that we humans are working diligently towards self-imposed-extinction. Our acts of emitting greenhouse are making the world a warmer place. We can experience in atmosphere, oceans, and resultant melting of polar icecap and rising sea levels. A new study recently published by the researchers Lorenzo Alfieri of European Commission – Joint Research Centre, Italy, Richard Betts of University of Exeter and Met Office, UK, and their colleagues provides a clear picture of what we can expect as a result of global warming.

The research team has used impact models to assess the effects of global warming and the risk of large-scale flooding. The team has mainly focused on Europe partly due to the availability of the hydrological information, flood reporting data, and predictions of future climate. The research team compared the estimates of flood risk in Europe with three recent case studies. The comparison included changes to future climate, expected damage, and population that will be affected with the floods.

The study is divided in to three parts:

Part 1: Climate projections for Europe obtained from state-of-the-art climate models
Part 2: Calculation of future climate to quantify flood risk and its impact
Part 3: Comparison of results obtained by different damage calculation algorithms

The research team compared the algorithms where calculations matched and did not match with each other. The team has made an effort to answer the two key questions:

  1. Is it possible to identify trends that are consistent among the models to help Europe prepare for changes to flood risk?
  2. Are there differences in the models and if so, why?

In an interview given to the correspondent of The Guardian, professor Betts said, “Our results give the clearest picture yet of climate change increasing the risk of flooding. We did two new sets of model calculations and compared them with a third set from previous work. With all three methods, the result is higher flood risk in Western and Central Europe under a warmer climate, even at just 1.5 degrees C global warming.”

The lead author, Lorenzo added saying, “In support to Richard’s statements, the strength of our results comes from the variety of climate projections, methods and models included in this comparison work. The three studies we have considered cover a wide range of variability in projections of flood impacts, thanks to the use of 11 independent climate scenarios, 11 hydrological models, 3 inundation models and 2 impact models. Nevertheless, they all agree on a significant increase in flood risk in most European countries, at all global warming levels.”

The research team studied different models adding different degree Celsius of increase. In the comparison below, column one shows impact on Europe with 1.5 degree Celsius, column two shows the effect one Europe with increase in the atmospheric temperature by 2 degree Celsius, and column three shows effect by increase of 3 degree Celsius. The red color signifies agreement of models over the increased risk of flooding, green color indicates agreement of model over the reduction of flood risk, and light colors and white colors indicate disagreement of models over the risk of flooding in Europe.

Although, there are disagreements between the models compared by the research team, they are quite certain that a temperature increase of 1.5 degree Celsius will result in heightened risk for western and central Europe. The team estimated that around 500,000 to 1 million people are expected to get affected due to increased environmental temperature and floods.

Such studies provide basis to Environmental agencies and NGOs to take a stand against those who say it is too expensive to take action against climate change. The study clearly indicates that it may be costly to take an action against climate change, but doing nothing will prove to be very costly.

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