Widespread flooding caps miserable winter in Europe
Thu 8 Feb 2018
The first two months of winter have seen little sun and copious rain and snow across large parts of Europe. Most widely reported in the Australian press in the past few days has been the flooding of the Seine in Paris, but most countries in Europe have experienced what in Australia would be termed moderate to major flooding. Snow also has been widespread, but see later stories about France and Europe generally.
The countries of Europe do not have a unified system of classifying floods, but it's possible to gauge their severity by comparing a river's current and possible maximum alert levels. So, for example, the Seine has only reached an alert level of 2 in the recent flooding, while the maximum alert level is 3. I'll call this 2 out of 3, or 2/3.
Using this shorthand, the countries affected by flooding or flash flooding in at least one river basin over the past three weeks have been: Belarus 2/2, Belgium 2/3, Bulgaria 1/3 and 1/2, Finland 3/3, France 2/3, Germany 3/3 and 4/4, Italy 2/3, Latvia 2/3, Lithuania 2/3, Poland 3/3, Slovenia 2/2, Switzerland 3/5 and 1/2, Ukraine 3/3, and the United Kingdom (Wales, parts of Scotland and SW, Central and E England) 2/3. The most widespread flooding has been in Bulgaria, France, Germany and Poland. Apart from Bulgaria, northern Poland and the Latorica River in Slovakia and Ukraine, river levels are now generally falling.
Seine rises 4m above normal as winter rain reaches Paris
Thu 8 Feb 2018
With France's mean January temperature over 3° above the norm (a record since readings started in 1900) and a procession of unstable weather fronts marching across the country, it was little surprise that rainfall totals for winter so far were pushed well above the norm. It was the highest national average for these two months in the 1959-2018 period. The winter gloom impressed itself on the citizens, too, with negligible sunshine† - Rouen, 110km NW of Paris recorded only 18 hours of it, a January record. [MétéoFrance]
The heaviest December-January rain across France fell in the Massif Central, the southeastern Alps and the NE with some totals exceeding 500mm. Paris itself had 95mm in December and 117mm in January, a two-month total of 212mm. This is about twice as much as normal and comes second only to the January 1935-36 total of 213mm. The heaviest flooding was on the Seine, Loing, Yonne, Marne, Meuse, Moselle, Rhône/Saône, and the Garonne Rivers and its tributaries in the SW as well as many smaller streams. What MétéoFrance described as "remarkable levels" were attained at Bergerac on the Dordogne on 22 January, the Loue in Ornans (Doubs) 23rd , the Saone in Macon (Saone-et-Loire) 30th and the Seine in Rouen (Seine-Maritime) on the 31st.
Heavy rain around and upstream of Paris during the last two weeks of January saw the Seine peak on the Paris-Austerlitz gauge at 5.85m on Monday 29 January, just below the 6.00m mark at which a flood in Paris is deemed major. This put water levels about 4m above normal and caused considerable disruption. Apart from the June 2016 flood, which reached 6.10m, it was the highest inundation since the notable January 1982 flood (6.18). However, these all seem insignificant compared to the damaging proportions of the major January 1924 flood (7.32m) and the great flood of January 1910† (and here†), which peaked at 8.62m. [MétéoFrance†]
The swollen Seine flooded streets and some buildings along its banks, caused almost 1,500 evacuations, inundated some Métro stations and caused damage in about 240 towns or suburbs. Here is a selection of media and blog coverage and comment on the event:
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