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11.06.2013

European worst floods raise climate concerns


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Extreme weather events in Danube and Elbe river basins in Central Europe are expected to occur more frequently. In Southern Germany at the convergence of the Danube, Inn and Ilz rivers, water reached 42.3 feet in the last few days. A similar water level was reached back in 1501. Experts say that Europe should get ready for even worse floods. Cities should implement land-use restrictions in flood-prone areas. Groundwater pumping and regular dredging are needed to decrease silt and sand deposits on riverbeds after heavy rainfall.
The cause of these floods is to do with the mass of water vapor in the air, which partly resulted from the high air temperature. Experts say that the flooding was caused by a low-pressure system above Eastern Europe drawing warm, moist air from the Mediterranean. The warm water vapor accumulated north of low-lying mountain ranges and the Alps. After its arrival to the cooler regions of Central and Eastern Europe, it condensed resulting in heavy rainfall.
Danube’s water level is expected to reach 29.5 feet in Budapest, which is 10 inches higher than the river’s previous record in 2006. Prime Minister Viktor Orban has announced a state of emergency. Thousands of volunteers agreed to work overnight to strengthen the riverbanks. An emergency evacuation facility that is able to temporary accommodate 15,000 people has been set in Budapest.
According to Mojib Latif from the Helmholtz Center for Ocean Research in the German city of Kiel, there is an increase in the frequency of the extreme precipitation events. Latif says that floods at the same scale as the present one, are occurring twice as often as they did a century ago.
Gerhard Lux, a meteorologist from the German Meteorological Office says that May 2013 was wet, resulting in an increased precipitation and therefore, ground saturation. Heavy rainfall in many areas of Germany in late May and early June caused the water to flow on the surface as the ground could not absorb it anymore. This caused the rapid filling of streams and rivers.

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