Pan-European hydrodynamic models and their ability to identify compound floods

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The interaction between storm surges and inland run-off has been gaining increasing attention recently, as they have the potential to result in compound floods. In Europe, several flood events of this type have been recorded in the past century in Belgium, France, Ireland, Italy and UK. First projections of compound flood hazard under climate change have been made, but no study has so far analysed whether existing, independent climate and hydrodynamic models are able to reproduce the co-occurrence of storm surges, precipitation, river discharges or waves. Here, we investigate the dependence between the different drivers in different observational and modelled data set, utilizing gauge records and high-resolution outputs of climate reanalyses and hindcasts, hydrodynamic models of European coasts and rivers. The results show considerable regional differences in strength of the dependence in surge–precipitation and surge–discharge pairs. The models reproduce those dependencies, and the time lags between the flood drivers, rather well in north-western Europe, but less successfully in the southern part. Further, we identified several compound flood events in the reanalysis data. We were able to link most of those modelled events with historical reports of flood or storm losses. However, false positives and false negatives were also present in the reanalysis and several large compound floods were missed by the reanalysis. All in all, the study still shows that accurate representation of compound floods by independent models of each driver is possible, even if not yet achievable at every location.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)933-957
Number of pages25
JournalNatural Hazards
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Hindcast
  • Precipitation
  • Reanalysis
  • River discharge
  • Storm surge

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