Assessing river flood risk and adaptation in Europe-review of projections for the future

Zbigniew W. Kundzewicz, Nicola Lugeri, Rutger Dankers, Yukiko Hirabayashi, Petra Döll, Iwona Pińskwar, Tomasz Dysarz, Stefan Hochrainer, Piotr Matczak

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

105 Citations (Scopus)


Flood damages have exhibited a rapid upward trend, both globally and in Europe, faster than population and economic growth. Hence, vigorous attempts of attribution of changes have been made. Flood risk and vulnerability tend to change over many areas, due to a range of climatic and nonclimatic impacts whose relative importance is site-specific. Flooding is a complex phenomenon and there are several generating mechanisms, among others intense and/or long-lasting precipitation, snowmelt, ice jam. Projected climate-driven changes in future flood frequency are complex, depending on the generating mechanism, e.g., increasing flood magnitudes where floods result of heavy rainfall and possibly decreasing magnitudes where floods are generated by spring snowmelt. Climate change is likely to cause an increase of the risk of riverine flooding across much of Europe. Projections of flood hazard in Europe based on climatic and hydrological models, reviewed in this paper, illustrate possible changes of recurrence of a 100-year flood (with probability of exceedance being 1-in-100 years) in Europe. What used to be a 100-year flood in the control period is projected to become either more frequent or less frequent in the future time horizon of concern. For a large part of the continent, large flooding is projected to become more commonplace in future, warmer climate. Due to the large uncertainty of climate projections, it is currently not possible to devise a scientifically-sound procedure for redefining design floods (e. g. 100-year flood) in order to adjust flood defenses. For the time being, we recommend to adjust design floods using a "climate change factor" approach.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)641-656
Number of pages16
JournalMitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Adaptation
  • Climate change impacts
  • Climate projections
  • Floods
  • Risk
  • Vulnerability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Ecology


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