Stranded vehicles in the flooded Somerset village of Moorland last month. REUTERS/Cathal McNaughton
Extreme floods like those swamping parts of Britain in recent
months could become more frequent in Europe by 2050, more
than quadrupling financial losses, if climate change worsens
and more people live in vulnerable areas, research has
The study said instances of very extreme floods, which now
occur about once every 50 years, could shorten to about every
30 years, while cases of extreme damage now occurring once
every 16 years could shorten to once every 10 years.
With shorter cycles of extreme floods and damage, the
European's current average losses of 4.9 billion euros a year
could reach 23.5 billion euros by 2050, a rise of almost 380
percent, said the study in the journal Nature Climate Change.
Scientists at several universities and research centres in
Europe and Australia used climate change models, economic
data and river discharge data to form their conclusions.
"Due to climate change and GDP growth, by 2050 a
one-in-fifty-years-flood might be one in 30 years so the
frequency of such losses increases dramatically - almost
doubling," said co-author Brenden Jongman, researcher at the
IVM Institute for Environmental Studies at VU University
Extreme damage can more than double the average damage rate
used in the study's calculations. In June last year,
extensive flooding resulted in 12 billion euros of losses in
nine countries across central and eastern Europe, according
to reinsurance company Munich Re.
The study said investment in flood protection measures could
help reduce the magnitude of overall flood losses in the
By investing around 1.75 billion euros in such measures,
Europe's annual flood losses could be reduced by around 7
billion euros, or around 30 percent, by 2050, it estimated.
Rising costs from flood damage are due to several factors
such as changes in climate, land use, population and wealth.
The European Environment Agency said last year that costs
from flooding were also rising in part because more housing
was being built in flood-prone areas.
Better reporting of floods has also contributed to the rising
overall cost of these inundations.
A UN panel of climate scientists has said the Earth is set
for more heat waves, floods, droughts and rising sea levels
from melting ice sheets that could swamp coasts as greenhouse
gases built up in the atmosphere.
Other bodies, such as the European Environment Agency, have
said it is likely that rising temperatures in Europe will
change rainfall patterns, leading to more frequent and heavy
floods in many regions.
Britain is currently experiencing its wettest winter on
record, resulting in the worst floods for the country in 50
Accountancy firm Deloitte said on Friday there were nearly
200,000 insurance claims in Britain in the last three months
of 2013 due to storms and floods - the highest number of such
claims over a fourth-quarter financial period for 10 years.
It has also estimated that the cost of repairing the damage
caused could reach 1 billion pounds. Insurance companies such
as Aviva and Swiss Re have urged for more action and
investment to manage flooding.
The paper is available at: