The relationship between Lamb weather types and long-term changes in flood frequency, River Eden, UK
journal contributionposted on 21.01.2013, 15:15 by Ian Pattison, Stuart N. Lane
Research has found that both flood magnitude and frequency in the UK may have increased over the last five decades. However, evaluating whether or not this is a systematic trend is difficult because of the lack of longer records. Here we compile and consider an extreme flood record that extends back to 1770. Since 1770, there have been 137 recorded extreme floods. However, over this period, there is not a unidirectional trend of rising extreme flood risk over time. Instead, there are clear flood-rich and flood-poor periods. Three main flood-rich periods were identified: 1873–1904, 1923–1933, and 1994 onwards. To provide a first analysis of what is driving these periods, and given the paucity of more sophisticated datasets that extend back to the 18th century, objective Lamb weather types were used. Of the 27 objective Lamb weather types, only 11 could be associated with the extreme floods during the gauged period, and only 5 of these accounted for >80% of recorded extreme floods The importance of these five weather types over a longer timescale for flood risk in Carlisle was assessed, through calculating the proportion of each hydrological year classified as being associated with these flood-generating weather types. Two periods clearly had more than the average proportions of the year classified as one of the flood causing weather types; 1900–1940 and 1983–2007; and these two periods both contained flood-rich hydrological records. Thus, the analysis suggests that systematic organisation of the North Atlantic climate system may be manifest as periods of elevated and reduced flood risk, an observation that has major implications for analyses that assume that climatic drivers of flood risk can be either statistically stationary or are following a simple trend.
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