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Project "3000 years of flooding in mountain catchments: connectivity, synchronization or teleconnection?"



Title: 3000 years of flooding in mountain catchments: connectivity, synchronization or teleconnection?

Principal Researcher: Lothar Schulte

Researchers: 7

Project’s code: CGL2016-75475-R (2016-2019)

Duration: 2016-2019

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)

The variation of surface hydrological conditions that determine the pattern of river systems, affects significantly environmental and socioeconomic systems and flood risk. However, recent studies indicate that only 10% of the regional projections of land surface show a robust increase in aridity in dry regions, as well as increased moisture in humid regions as a result from global warming. Furthermore, mountain basins show abrupt nonlinear hydrological response because of their complex features and a multitude of variables.

The project develops a multidisciplinary approach that contributes to the generation of long series of paleofloods in the Eastern Betic Range and Western Alps, that record also low-frequency extreme events. The approach analyzes fluvial sedimentary and lichenometric proxies, as well as instrumental data and documentary sources by applying geostatistical methods, climate modeling and remote sensing. The control mechanisms and forcings (orbital, solar, climate, volcanic, land use changes, geomorphological and hydrological dynamics) involved in fluvial processes of basins with diferent features (altitude, surface) will be analyzed.

The study aims to determine whether paleofloods can be attributed to warm or cool climate periods, higher or lower humidity, and to regional-scale synoptic situations. Furthermore, it investigates whether there is a synchronous or asynchronous response between basins such as differences of catchment connectivity, and if the altitude is a key factor because of the snow melt.

The analysis of atmospheric circulation modes that have produced periods of higher flood frequency during the past millennium provides information on climate forcing mechanisms, possible correlations and teleconnections between catchments of the Betic Range - Western Alps transect. To improve the validity of the flood pattern along the transect, data sets and models of the Northeast Iberian basins will be included.

In the case of the Betic Range, the particular challenge is the analysis of the different flood magnitudes of 1973 and 2012 in the lower areas of the Vera depression compared to the surrounding mountains (Southeastern Iberian Peninsula). From the reconstruction of flood levels by documentary, lithostratigraphic and lichenometric records, and other bio-indicators the project will investigate how severe environmental disruption caused by recent agricultural practices, impact on peak discharges along the watercourse.

Regarding the Alps, the key point is to reconstruct for the first time high resolution paleoflood series (> 3000 years) of steep alpine alluvial cones and to document the spatial changes of torrential aggradation which threat nearby settlements.

The results of the project, together with peak flow quantification and corresponding flood area estimation by 2D hydrodynamic modeling, will be interpreted and transferred to the relevant public agencies for an accurate evaluation of the most recent severe-catastrophic floods.

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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