Annual flood sensitivities to El Nino-Southern Oscillation at the global scale

TitleAnnual flood sensitivities to El Nino-Southern Oscillation at the global scale
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2014
AuthorsWard P.J, Eisner S., Florke M., Dettinger MD, Kummu M.
JournalHydrology and Earth System Sciences
Date Published2014/01
Type of ArticleArticle
ISBN Number1027-5606
Accession NumberWOS:000331123300004
Keywordschanging climate; drought; enso teleconnections; europe; interdecadal changes; la-nina; river-basin; streamflow; variability; western united-states

Floods are amongst the most dangerous natural hazards in terms of economic damage. Whilst a growing number of studies have examined how river floods are influenced by climate change, the role of natural modes of interannual climate variability remains poorly understood. We present the first global assessment of the influence of El Nino-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) on annual river floods, defined here as the peak daily discharge in a given year. The analysis was carried out by simulating daily gridded discharges using the WaterGAP model (Water - a Global Assessment and Prognosis), and examining statistical relationships between these discharges and ENSO indices. We found that, over the period 1958-2000, ENSO exerted a significant influence on annual floods in river basins covering over a third of the world's land surface, and that its influence on annual floods has been much greater than its influence on average flows. We show that there are more areas in which annual floods intensify with La Nina and decline with El Nino than vice versa. However, we also found that in many regions the strength of the relationships between ENSO and annual floods have been non-stationary, with either strengthening or weakening trends during the study period. We discuss the implications of these findings for science and management. Given the strong relationships between ENSO and annual floods, we suggest that more research is needed to assess relationships between ENSO and flood impacts (e. g. loss of lives or economic damage). Moreover, we suggest that in those regions where useful relationships exist, this information could be combined with ongoing advances in ENSO prediction research, in order to provide year-to-year probabilistic flood risk forecasts.

Short TitleHydrol. Earth Syst. Sci.
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