Climate change is shifting when Europe’s rivers flood | Science News

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Climate change is shifting when Europe’s rivers flood

Seasonal events such as snowmelt affect when, and if, waterways overflow their banks

2:28pm, August 10, 2017
Tirol, Austria

HIGH WATER  In August 2005, severe floods hit alpine communities like this village in Tirol, Austria.

Across Europe, rivers aren’t flooding when they used to.

Long-term changes in temperature and precipitation are making some rivers flood days, weeks or even months earlier than they did 50 years ago, and pushing flooding in other areas much later, researchers report August 11 in Science. Those changes could impact people, wildlife and farms near rivers.

Previous studies have shown that climate change is likely to increase the severity and frequency of coastal floods, but it can be tricky to concretely link river flooding to climate change, says Günter Blöschl, a hydrologist at the Vienna University of Technology who led the study.

Coastal flooding is worsened largely by one overriding variable that can be tracked: sea level rise. But river flooding is affected by a complex set of factors, says Rob Moore, a policy analyst at the Natural Resources Defense Council in Chicago who

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