. Energy News .

Climate and land use: Europe's floods raise questions
by Staff Writers
Paris (AFP) June 05, 2013

German, Czech cities brace for flood surge
Dresden, Germany (AFP) June 05, 2013 - Central Europe's worst floods in over a decade claimed a 12th victim Wednesday as torrents of muddy water surged down swollen rivers through the Czech Republic and into Germany, flooding villages and forcing mass evacuations.

The huge volumes of water from heavy spring rains coming down the Danube and Elbe river systems also sparked mass mobilisations in Austria and threatened future inundations as far away as Budapest.

Eastern Germany, where vast areas are already under water, braced for worse to come after the Elbe rose above eight metres (26 feet), six metres higher than usual, with the crest yet to arrive.

About 40,000 firefighters, 5,000 troops, including hundreds of French and Dutch soldiers, and thousands of volunteers nationwide have struggled to prevent major disaster.

"We have to expect the very worst," warned Till Backhaus, environment minister of Mecklenburg-Pomerania state.

"We have to be ready for a highly difficult and complex situation," he was quoted as saying by German news agency DPA.

In the city of Halle, where Elbe tributary the Saale reached its highest level in 400 years and started soaking through dykes, authorities told 30,000 people to evacuate.

The widespread floods in central Europe, which have turned villages into islands, were the worst since 2002 when scores of people were killed.

Homes, businesses and crops have been destroyed, road and rail links severed and vast areas left without power and drinking water.

In the Czech Republic, where eight people have perished, some villages can only be reached by boat.

The floods, which earlier killed two people in Austria and one in Switzerland, claimed their first victim in Slovakia when a body was found in the Danube close to the Gabcikovo dam in the country's south.

In Germany -- where, ironically, the skies were clear after weeks of frequent rain -- defences were strengthened around the historical city centre of Dresden, a world heritage site that was badly hit by 2002 floods.

"The flood preparations since the 'century floods' of 2002 are working," said city spokesman Kai Schulz.

"Still, areas to the east of the city are under water. In the past 48 hours alone, more than 1,000 people were evacuated, and there'll be more."

In southern Germany, where the Danube has burst its banks, the Bavarian rural district of Deggendorf was cut off from the outside world, and 6,000 people had been evacuated.

In Passau, hit by "millenium floods" of 12.9 metres this week, waters were receding and troops were helping clear tonnes of mud and debris from offices and homes.

In the Czech Republic, Prague has escaped the worst, but the floods have hit Usti nad Labem, an industrial city 30 kilometres from the German border, where some 3,700 had to flee.

The Elbe was also threatening several chemical plants along its banks.

In Lovosice, 60 kilometres north of Prague, fertilizer maker Lovochemie said dangerous chemicals had been moved, and management was considering a controlled flooding of the facility.

"Directed flooding would cause less damage than a flood wave," Karel Hanzelka, spokesman for the Agrofert holding which owns the plant, told AFP.

Prague interim mayor Tomas Hudecek has meanwhile bemoaned "an excessive surge in flood tourists" amid reports some had attempted to dismantle anti-flood defences to take home as souvenirs.

In Slovakia's capital Bratislava, sightseers also flocked to watch the rising Danube. A woman who gave her name only as Zuzana, 30, was precariously bending over a flood barrier to take pictures and said: "I'm not afraid, a little adrenalin never hurt anyone."

Less than three months after being battered by snow and ice, central Europe now finds itself fighting floods -- and some scientists are pointing the finger at human interference with the climate system.

Leading the charge is the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) near Berlin, which says a low-pressure system that dumped the rain was locked into place by a disturbance with a global wind pattern.

"We think it is linked to the current drought conditions in Russia as well," Stefan Rahmstorf, PIK's professor of ocean physics, told AFP.

Normally, air moves around the mid-latitudes of the planet in the form of waves, oscillating irregularly between the tropics and the poles, Rahmstorf explained.

The main force behind this movement is the big temperature gap between the frigid Arctic and the warmer southerly latitudes. Like a pump, this differential helps to force air northward or southward.

The problem, though, is that the Arctic is steadily warming -- last year, its summer sea ice hit its lowest extent on record -- so the temperature difference is declining.

As a result, according to the theory, the wave movement diminishes. At a certain point, pressure systems stay locked in place, causing a weather pattern that persists wretchedly.

"This planetary wave resonance is not a local effect but spread around the whole (northern) hemisphere," said Rahmstorf in an email exchange.

When a "resonance" episode occurs, half a dozen peaks and troughs of high or low pressure form around the hemisphere. This explains why some parts of the world become unseasonably hot or cold and others unusually dry or rainy, said Rahmstorf in an email exchange.

More and more of these events have been occurring since 2003, coinciding with higher temperatures and widening Arctic sea ice loss, Rahmstorf said. Current data from weather satellites point to a repeat of this episode, he added.

The resonance theory has become widely discussed among climate scientists since PIK first published it in the scientific journal Nature Climate Change last year.

But it has met resistance among experts who are leery about associating a single extreme-weather event today -- or even several -- with climate change, which is considered a longer-term phenomenon.

"To confirm the exact role played by climate change in flooding trends in past decades, it would be necessary to have more reliable, long-term series data for a rivers with a natural flow regime," the European Environment Agency (EAA) cautioned on Wednesday.

It said, though, that as far as the future is concerned, rising temperatures in Europe will accentuate rainfall, "leading to more frequent and intense floods in many regions."

According to a probe by European hydrologists, around a fifth European cities with a population of more than 100,000 are very vulnerable to river flooding, a risk that raises questions about how land is used.

Concrete and tarmac ensure that rainfall drains off very quickly into rivers, whose levels may rise swiftly if farmland is already soggy -- as was the case in much of central Europe after last March's snowfalls.

The green group WWF called for a restoration of flood plains, a natural buffer against floodwaters that for decades has been eroded by urbanisation and agriculture.

Austria, it noted, was enduring its second big flood in 10 years. Yet each day, the equivalent of around 12 football pitches of Austrian land were being sealed over, especially in river valleys.

"Flood plains are like sponges allowing large volumes of water to be stored and slowly and safely released down rivers and into the groundwater," said Orieta Hulea, WWF's conservation director for central and eastern Europe.

"If we cut them off from the main river beds and drain them for agriculture, as has happened on the Lower Danube and across most of Europe for the last century, their potential for flood retention is lost and the risks from floods are increased."


Related Links
Farming Today - Suppliers and Technology

Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks
del.icio.usdel.icio.us DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

Memory Foam Mattress Review

Newsletters :: SpaceDaily Express :: SpaceWar Express :: TerraDaily Express :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News

Get Our Free Newsletters
Space - Defense - Environment - Energy - Solar - Nuclear


Hidden effects of climate change may threaten eelgrass meadows
Gothenburg, Germany (SPX) Jun 05, 2013
Some research has shown that the effects of changes in the climate may be weak or even non-existent. This makes it easy to conclude that climate change will ultimately have less impact than previous warnings have predicted. But it could also be explained as direct and indirect effects cancelling each other out, as scientists from the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, show in a paper recently pub ... read more

Magnetospheric Multiscale Mission Team Assemble Flight Observatory

Elevated carbon dioxide making arid regions greener

Landsat 8 Satellite Begins Watch

NASA Ships Sensors for Seafaring Satellite to France

Glitch puts off Indian navigation satellite launch by a fortnight

Orbcomm And Cartrack Deliver Telematics Solution For African Market

Narayansami Inaugurates ISRO Navigation Centre

Advanced aircraft detection to prevent 'friendly fire' mishaps

Brazil police deployed to contain land feud

Brazil grapples with indigenous land protests

Forest, soil carbon important but does not offset fossil fuel emissions

Smithsonian scientists discover that rainforests take the heat

Scotland gives green light to $710M wood biomass heat-power plant

Climate change raises stakes on US ethanol policy

Molecular switch for cheaper biofuel

Enzyme from wood-eating gribble could help turn waste into biofuel

US DoI Approves SolarReserve's 100 MW Arizona Solar Power Project

CTRL+P: Printing Australia's largest solar cells

Renewable energy project in Arizona, Nevada get U.S. approval

Greenwood Biosar Commences Construction of One of Vermont's Largest Solar Arrays

Uruguay deficit likely to speed windpower plans

Romania decree threatens green energy projects

Philippines ready to move forward on renewable energy?

Cold climate wind energy showing huge potential

Germany's top court hears case against giant coal mine

Glencore Xstrata cancels coal export terminal plans

Proposed U.S. Northwest coal export project scrapped

China mine accident kills 22: state media

Chinese website bans searches for 'yellow duck'

Obama urged to press China to free 16 prisoners

China blocks Tiananmen anniversary remembrance

Hong Kong marks Tiananmen as China blocks remembrance

The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2012 - Space Media Network. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA Portal Reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement