SEARCH

SEARCH BY CITATION

Keywords:

  • Climate change;
  • floods;
  • land use;
  • modelling

Abstract

At the global scale, the warming of the atmosphere will increase the capacity of the atmosphere to hold and accelerate the redistribution of water in the atmosphere. This suggests that flood-generating processes linked to the atmosphere are likely to increase. However, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change projections of future floods involve extremely complex issues that defy simple generalisations. Warming will alter other aspects of the water cycle increasing evaporation, changing precipitation patterns and intensity, and also affecting the processes involved in surface storage of water, including snowpack generation, snowmelt, river ice break-up, and glacial melt. Many of these are active in flood generation, and changes may cause floods to decrease as well as increase. However, these processes take place not at the global scale but at relatively local scale, making generalisations about flooding in future climates difficult and uncertain. At the global scale, the role of land use is generally unresolved, but at a watershed scale, land-use effects can be as important as changes in the meteorological processes. This review shows that while meteorologically driven flooding is expected to increase in a changed climate, making a precise pronouncement regarding all floods is unwise, as many types of floods will respond differently to changing climate and that because floods are watershed scale events, these local effects will remain important.