Risk Analysis

The Impact of Climate Variability on Flood Risk in Poland

Journal Article

This article examines the role of climatic and hydrological variability in assessing the cumulative risk of flood events in Poland over a T‐year period. In a broad sense flood‐risk estimation combines a frequency analysis of extreme hydrological phenomena with an evaluation of flood‐induced damages. The damage from floods depends on the critical values of the river discharges. The probabilistic flood analysis usually includes an estimation of the expected annual probability of the critical discharge Qcr being exceeded and the equivalent long‐term risk of it being exceeded over the next T years. If, however, the process is nonstationary, the T‐year risk of flood damage may depend importantly on the variation of hydrological processes. As a possible explanation for the variations observed in snowmelt‐induced floods in Polish rivers, this article investigates the possible impact of the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) on surface air temperature T and precipitation P. The spatial distribution of the correlation coefficients between NAO and T, as well as NAO and P, show very significant differences in the NAO impact on meteorological variables in various parts of Europe. To assess the implications of NAO variations on spring flood discharges, a simple model of Snow Cover Water Equivalent (SCWE) was applied to selected Polish river catchments. The conclusion of this analysis is that the yearly maximum of SCWE values significantly decreases with increasing NAO. This leads to a temporal redistribution of winter and spring runoff. The question of spring flood characteristics being stationary or nonstationary may therefore be linked with stochastic properties of the NAO index time series.

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