An open-access article published in Nature Geoscience 15:118-123 by Wilhelm et al. (2022) entitled “Impact of warmer climate periods on flood hazard in the European Alps” discusses flooding as a pervasive natural hazard—costly in both human and economic terms—and climate change will probably exacerbate risks around the world. Mountainous areas, such as the densely populated European Alps, are of particular concern as topography and atmospheric conditions can result in large and sudden floods. In addition, the Alps are experiencing a high warming rate, which is probably leading to more heavy rainfall events. Wilhelm et al. (2022) compile palaeoflood records to test the still uncertain impact these climatic trends might have on flood frequency and magnitude in the European Alps. They demonstrate that a warming of 0.5–1.2 °C, whether naturally or anthropogenically forced, led to a 25–50% decrease in the frequency of large (≥10 yr return period) floods. This decreasing trend is not conclusive in records covering less than 200 years but persistent in those ranging from 200 to 9,000 years. By contrast, extreme (>100 yr) floods may increase with a similar degree of warming in certain small alpine catchments impacted by local intensification of extreme rainfall. Their results show how long, continuous palaeoflood records can be used to disentangle complex climate–flooding relationships and assist in improving risk assessment and management at a regional scale.
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