How the Euro-Flood Happened

July 16, 2021

Jason Samenow in the Washington Post:

The death toll in Germany and Belgium has topped 115 as the recovery begins from a devastating, historic flood that ravaged Central Europe between Tuesday and Thursday. That number is expected to rise as many people remain unaccounted for and rescuers are just beginning to access regions that were cut off by floodwaters.

The flood disaster resulted from an unusual combination of weather factors that conspired to produce exceptional rainfall.

In short, a storm system or zone of low pressure over Central Europe, named “Bernd,” became trapped between flanking areas of high pressure to the west and east. The low-pressure zone, which tapped tropical moisture from the Mediterranean, unloaded bursts of torrential rain over two to three days. And human-caused climate change may have played a role by increasing the intensity and duration of the event.

In the hardest-hit parts of Germany, two months’ worth of rain fell in 24 hours, according to the Deutscher Wetterdienst, Germany’s meteorological agency. A map tweeted by the agency revealed that it was a 1-in-100-year deluge over a large swath of western Germany, or one that has just a 1 percent chance of occurring in any given year.

Numerous locations in western Germany received 5 to 7 inches of rain, with locally higher amounts, between Tuesday and Thursday. Some of the most extreme downpours occurred Wednesday night into Thursday, when more than a half-foot of rain fell in less than 12 hours. Here are some select totals from western Germany:

  • Reifferscheid received 8.1 inches in just 9 hours, according to CNN.
  • Cologne received 6 inches in the 24 hours ending Thursday morning, according to CNN.
  • LĂĽdenscheid received 4.5 inches of rain in 24 hours, according to Deutscher Wetterdienst.
  • DĂĽsseldorf received 1.89 inches in 12 hours Tuesday night into Wednesday, according to AccuWeather. Its three-day (between early Tuesday morning and early Thursday morning) total was 5.6 inches.

Heavy rain not only affected Germany but also Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and France.

The deluge unfolded as a plume of deep moisture, sourced from the Mediterranean, surged into Central Europe on Tuesday and Wednesday. A high-pressure zone over the eastern Atlantic, off France and the United Kingdom, acted as a pump, steering the moisture plume through France into Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany.

The high-pressure system over the Atlantic was flanked by an unusually intense zone of low pressure to the east over Central Europe that helped generate the downpours. The low was sandwiched between another area of high pressure over Eastern Europe, creating a weather system traffic jam that allowed heavy rain to persist.

Computer models showed that the amount of moisture in the atmosphere, or a quantity known as total precipitable water, was comparable to those seen along the U.S. Gulf Coast during hurricane landfalls.

Before the torrents, Deutscher Wetterdienst had warned that weather models were predicting extreme amounts of precipitation in some areas.

The intensity of rain overwhelmed local rivers that flow into the Rhine River basin, and the volume of water overflowed several dams.

Much of the rain over Central Europe has ended as the high-pressure zone over the eastern Atlantic has extended further over the continent, pushing the low-pressure zone southward.

The exceptional intensity of the rainfall is consistent with what scientists anticipate with rising temperatures caused by human-induced climate change. Higher temperatures speed up evaporation, placing more water in the atmosphere for the kind of downpours that have occurred.

recent study in the Journal of Climate anticipates “large magnitude increases” in extreme precipitation in much of Europe in the coming decades.

55 Responses to “How the Euro-Flood Happened”

  1. J4Zonian Says:

    It’s utterly predictable that people so warped by childhood and ideology they resort to science denial—especially climate-denying delayalism—don’t like the sites pointing out truths and debunking lies by the right wing extremists fighting off solutions to the climate crisis. The trolls have nothing but more lies to defend the lies already told, so they cast aspersions like broadly scattering weed seeds hoping some will take root and choke off the crops.

    Skeptical Science points out, yes, the science of climate catastrophe, responding to the hundreds of lies created by the jackalpack of right wing PR firms masquerading as think tanks, and spread by internet trolls, right wing media and politicians. Those denying delayalists are of course, funded by fossil fuel and other corporations (rail, agro-chemical, ICEV, banks, and others) and right wing dark money donors. Skeptical science, the related excellent free internet course Climate Denial 101, and the denial learning game Cranky Uncle, were created by scientists at the U. of Queensland and other places. They refer to the overwhelming science showing climate catastrophe is happening, human-caused, and threatens civilization and millions of species. We can save much of what we love if we stop listening to the deceivers, remove the right wing lunatics from power and implement the solutions at all possible speed.

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    We certainly need to understand the logistics of building efficiency, clean safe renewable energy, regenerative agriculture and other ecological production. But the only way to understand how (and in exactly what ways) it’s possible for people to be so warped and twisted that they oppose solutions to the biggest threat to human existence ever, and even more important to understand the solutions to that crisis, is to learn human psychology.

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