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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Impact of climate change on European winter and summer flood losses


Climate change is expected to alter European floods and associated economic losses in various ways. Here we investigate the impact of precipitation change on European average winter and summer financial losses due to flooding under a 1.5 °C warming scenario (reflecting a projected climate in the year 2115 according to RCP2.6)and for a counterfactual current-climate scenario where the climate has evolved without anthropogenic influence (reflecting a climate corresponding to pre-industrial conditions). Climate scenarios were generated with the Community Atmospheric Model (CAM)version 5. For each scenario, we derive a set of weights that when applied to the current climate's precipitation results in a climatology that approximates that of the scenario. We apply the weights to annual losses from a well-calibrated (to the current climate)flood loss model that spans 50,000 years and re-compute the average annual loss to assess the impact of precipitation changes induced by anthropogenic climate change. The method relies on a large stochastic set of physically based flood model simulations and allows quick assessment of potential loss changes due to change in precipitation based on two statistics, namely total precipitation, and total precipitation of very wet days (defined here as the total precipitation of days above the 95th percentile of daily precipitation). We compute the statistics with the raw CAM precipitation and bias-corrected precipitation. Our results show that for both raw and bias-corrected statistics i)average flood loss in Europe generally tend to increase in winter and decrease in summer for the future scenario, and consistent with that change we also show that ii)average flood losses have increased (decreased)for winter (summer)from pre-industrial conditions to the current day. The magnitude of the change varies among scenarios and statistics chosen.

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