Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Warm summers coincide with less frequent flooding

Over the past 2,500 years, flooding in the Alps has been less frequent during warm summers than during cool summers.

This is the finding of a study supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) and carried out by researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquat-ic Science and Technology (Eawag), the University of Bern and the ETH Zurich. Their look into the past suggests that the frequency of flooding can be expected to wane in the central Alps.

Flooding represents a major natural hazard facing the people and in-frastructures of the Alpine region. How is the frequency of such ex-treme events likely to change over coming decades with the climatic scenarios pointing to warmer summers and lower mean precipitation levels? The study of geological archives (lake sediments), as well as a comparison with periods of higher temperatures, can help to provide a response to this question. However, both instrumental data and histor-ical documents only allow us to look back over the last few centuries.

Continuous data at regional level
For the first time, a team of researchers from Eawag, the University of Bern and the ETH Zurich, led by Flavio Anselmetti and Adrian Gilli, has studied the full history of flooding in the northern Alps over the past 2,500 years (*). This involved analysing sedimentary flood deposits taken from ten lakes in the northern Alps and dating the deposits that were characteristic of flooding episodes. “These lakes are distributed across a wide area and are located at different altitudes. This enables us to reduce local effects and events, and to obtain an overall picture of the climate in the central Alps,” explains Lukas Glur, the first author of the study. “We were able to identify thirteen periods with high flood frequency but we are unable to say anything about how intense they were.”
The role of subtropical high-pressure zones
Combining this data with the summer temperature curve for central Europe – from the Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Land-scape Research (WSL) - reveals a positive correlation between the peri-ods with most frequent flooding and cool summers. The researchers’ interpretation of this correlation is based on a change in North Atlantic atmospheric circulation patterns. Warm and dry summers in the northern Alps are characterised by a northward movement of the sub-tropical high-pressure zone, which deflects the humid air towards northern Europe. Conversely, when this zone is less extensive, bad weather systems are located further south and push up against the north side of the Alps, triggering major precipitation events.

Based on current knowledge, climate change can be expected to favour an expansion of this high-pressure zone. Consequently, researchers believe that the frequency of flooding can be expected to decline in the central Alpine region. However, the study does not enable them to draw conclusions as to the intensity of individual floods.

(*) Lukas Glur, Stefanie B. Wirth, Ulf Büntgen, Adrian Gilli, Gerald H. Haug, Christoph Schär, Jürg Beer and Flavio S. Anselmetti (2013). Frequent floods in the European Alps coincide with cooler periods of the past 2500 years Scientific Reports: doi:10.1038/srep02770
(available in pdf format from the SNSF to media representatives only; e-mail:

Following the embargo, the publication will be available free of charge here:

For further information
Interview with Lukas Glur:
Lukas Glur
CH-8600 Dübendorf
Phone: +41 31 631 45 67
Prof. Flavio S. Anselmetti
Geological Institute
University of Bern
Baltzerstrasse 1+3
CH-3012 Berne
Phone: +41 31 631 87 06/ +41 79 483 17 86

Media - Abteilung Kommunikation | idw
Further information:

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Receding glaciers in Bolivia leave communities at risk
20.10.2016 | European Geosciences Union

nachricht UM researchers study vast carbon residue of ocean life
19.10.2016 | University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia

21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine

Stanford researchers create new special-purpose computer that may someday save us billions

21.10.2016 | Information Technology

From ancient fossils to future cars

21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>