Europe hit by Extreme Weather

Flooding in Passau, Eastern Germany on 3rd of June 2013. Photo credit: Matthias Schrader – AP

By Anders Lorenzen
During the last week, many parts of Europe have been hit by severe flooding, though it’s still too early to model these latest extreme weather events to climate change, it does not take a scientific degree to note that the last few months in Europe alone have been extremely severe.

The German town, Dresden is one of the places to have been severely hit with the River Elbe being more than 6m above normal levels.

Things could have been a lot worse if it wasn’t because for the infrastructure in place in Europe to deal with flooding, Ian White from the University of Manchester said to The New Scientist magazine that these events have become more common and “Europe has improved it’s flood defences since severe flooding struck in 2002, but there comes a point when you can’t defend any more, there is simply too much water’’ .

The European parliament last week released this statement of emergency following the floods: “The countries hit by the floods know that the EU stands ready to assist in case of need. The European Commission’s Emergency Response Centre (ERC) has been closely monitoring the situation since the heavy rains began falling and is ready to act immediately it is called upon. It has already supplied satellite imagery of flood zones at the request of the German authorities. European pre-defined civil protection assets – so called “modules”, composed of specialised equipment and teams, are available for deployment if necessary at short notice. The European Commission can call on Member States to deploy more than twenty of these flood-related modules, such as high-capacity pumping, boat rescue and flood barriers.’’

The town hall in Grimma, Eastern Germany surrounded by water. Photo credit: Jens Wolf – European Press Agency.

The countries most affected from the heavy rain causing floods and which have so far inflicted a death toll of 18 people are: Germany, Austria and Czech Republic.

Examples of recent extreme weather events to hit Europe in the last few months:

  • Extreme flooding caused by heavy rainfall in Germany, Austria and Czech Republic.
  • The jet stream having moved out of position causing a prolonged winter in much of Europe, subsequently delaying spring harming biodiversity and agriculture.
  • That same jet stream also meant we, in low lying areas in the UK and other parts of Europe, saw snowfall in May.
  • Skiing resorts in Europe for the first time ever open into June.
  • Finland hit by an unusual cold wave in early days of March recording as low as -38,2°C.
  • France, Hungary and Norway hit by unusually heavy March snow.
  • In the UK, March was the joint coldest ever since records began in 1910.

As the rescue operation continues in Central Europe, it has become evident that Europe is, for all it’s high tech infrastructure, vulnerable to extreme weather – a trend that experts are telling us will only increase.

Sub edited by Charlotte Paton

Categories: flooding, Germany

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