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Project "Multi-proxy analysis of palaeofloods in mountain regions. Driving factors and impacts in the past, present and future"



Title: Multi-proxy analysis of palaeofloods in mountain regions. Driving factors and impacts in the past, present and future

Principal Researcher: Lothar Schulte

Researchers: 8

Funding entity: Programa Nacional de Biodiversidad, Ciencias de la Tierra y Cambio global

Project’s code: CGL2013-43716-R (2014-2017)

Duration: 2014 - 2017

Participating entities: Universitat de Barcelona, Servei Meteorològic de Catalunya, Institut Cartogràfic i Geològic de Catalunya, Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research WSL (CH), Universität Bern (CH) Universität Giessen (DE), Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin (DE)


Projected future changes in climate demands for more definite information on the magnitude–frequency relationships of severe floods than can be obtained from short instrumental or historical records alone. The Fluvalps-Iberia project aims to generate from a multidisciplinary approach, that includes alluvial sedimentary archives, long reference time series of paleofloods in the Eastern Betic Range, the Western Alps and the Northeastern Iberian Peninsula (comparative study area). The detailed analysis of these geoarchives will enlarge the flood series to record low-frequency extreme events. Furthermore, the trends, clusters and gaps detected in the instrumental and documentary time series can be interpreted in the context of millennia and centennial climate changes and variability. In addition, the project investigates the driving factors and effects in the past, present and future.

The novelty is the reconstruction of long time series generated not from lake records of small watersheds, but from high-resolution floodplain sediments from interdistributary basins, which reproduce the fluvial dynamic and environment of a medium size basin (between 250 and 600 km2), providing a regional signal that could be influenced by the global climate variability. This approach which was developed in the Alps during prior projects will be methodologically improved and applied to the Spanish territory. The robustness of the flood series come from the calibration of different proxies to each other: natural archives (sedimentary, geochemical, pollen, lichen), documentary sources (descriptions of floods, historical buildings and maps) and instrumental (flow, precipitation, temperature), cataloging atmospheric synoptic types from grids and correlations with climate reference records. This approach aims to identify more precisely the cyclic pattern, mechanisms and driving forces (orbital, solar, climate, volcanic and land use) by statistical processing of the generated time series and also of paleoclimatic reference records.

Furthermore, a multidisciplinary space-time model of the floodplain dynamics will be developed, that will integrate information about human occupation, the mechanisms of resilience and hydraulic management that interact with the fluvial systems. The reproduction of the field data of the catastrophic floods of 1762, 1831 and 2005 in the Hasli valley and 1973, 1989 and 2012 in the valley of the River Antas are conducted from hydrodynamic and transport modeling contributing to the evaluation of most recent floods.

The pattern of the atmospheric circulation facilitates the documentation of various synoptic types that produce periods of higher flood frequency. The identification of possible teleconnections between the records of the Eastern Betic range and the Western Alps will provide expertise to the interpretation of the mechanisms of atmospheric circulation in the North Atlantic and Mediterranean concerning the forcing of hydrological extreme events. With regard to the future impact of river dynamics, regionalized climate scenarios are modeled at high resolution. Results and methods will be transferred to public administrations and Spanish companies.

LINKS and Bibliographical references


Schulte, L.; Peña, J.C.; Carvalho, F.; Schmidt, T.; Julià, R.; Llorca, J.; Veit, H, 2015. A 2600-year history of floods in the Bernese Alps, Switzerland: frequencies, mechanisms and climate forcing. Hydrology and Earth System Sciences 19, 3047-3072. 
open access: http://www.hydrol-earth-syst-sci.net/19/3047/2015/

Peña, J.C.; Schulte, L.; Badoux, A.; Barriendos, M.; Barrera-Escoda, A., 2015. Influence of solar forcing, climate variability and atmospheric circulation patterns on summer floods in Switzerland. Hydrology and Earth System Sciences 19, 3807-3827.
open access: http://www.hydrol-earth-syst-sci.net/19/3807/2015/

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