Trends in the Transport Sector 1970-2006: 2008 Edition

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It should be noted that quantitative information on floods losses was not always obtainable.

For the remaining 17 events some fatalities were reported to have occurred, but the exact number of deaths was unknown. In Fig. In saturated colors, the original, unadjusted values of damages are shown as reported in historical records. Only the monetary value of losses was adjusted for price of inflation and converted to euros.


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In less intense colors, the normalized values, i. It is important to note that vulnerability to floods is assumed to be constant and that the reported losses are only multiplied by the change in number of persons, production or assets in a given footprint see Methods section for details. Trends in flood losses per year.

Comparison of unadjusted, reported values dark colors and normalized values, i. Most flood events recorded in the database occurred in recent decades, with relatively small numbers of events reported for the late 19th century.

Over most of the period of record, the total area inundated increased significantly, however no significant trend is observed after Given that area flooded is known only for a tenth of all events in the database, confidence in this finding is low. Finally, for both the number of persons affected and monetary losses adjusted for inflation, a positive trend is observed over all periods of record.


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  • However, for — and — the trend is not significant. The time periods all end in For uncertainty ranges, see Supplementary Figs. Normalization has a considerable effect on the observed results. The downward trend in fatalities becomes much more pronounced, reaching —4. It also becomes statistically significant except for the period between and ; however, uncertainty regarding past exposure to floods renders the trends for this time period insignificant.

    Nonetheless, during the period from the s to the present there have been fewer normalized deaths than almost any period prior. Still, the total number of flood victims peak around the year In terms of financial losses, the increase for — becomes smaller after normalization 1. However, when using the starting years and for the analysis, the trend in financial losses becomes statistically insignificant.

    This is similar to the finding before normalization, however the trend is now downward rather than upward. Correcting losses by changes in both GDP and wealth indicates that losses peaked in the s rather than the s. In general, flood losses have been declining in the entire post period despite some noticeable cycles of higher and lower loss-generating periods. Historical records of flood events often do not contain all or even most of the statistics on the consequences of floods.

    Hence, in order to better assess trends in flood losses, gaps in the database were filled using estimates based on an analysis of the dependence structure between all pairs of variables using copulas see Methods. Gap-filled annual losses are presented in Fig.

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    The difference between the unadjusted and gap-filled data is clearly visible in the graphs; only in the case of the number of fatalities are the differences small. This is because there were few gaps in the historical record of the number of fatalities. Trends in normalized flood losses per year. Comparison of losses with lighter colors and without gap-filling dark colors for a area inundated; b fatalities; c persons affected; d financial value of losses with normalization by GDP; and e financial value of losses with normalization by wealth. The trend in inundated area for — becomes statistically significant after gap-filling 1.

    However, for the entire period —, there is little difference in the observed upward trend after gap-filling 1. The number of persons affected before correcting for missing records shows an 0. Only the — trend is statistically significant. Moreover, the normalized monetary value of losses after gap-filling no longer shows a significant trend for the whole period, and losses normalized by wealth increase by only 0. For all other time slices, the general trends are the same as before correcting for missing data. Trends calculated for all events in Europe include variations within different groups of floods.

    The tables are synthesized in Supplementary Fig. Trends for the subdomains diverge substantially over time for all variables except fatalities. Especially for the period since , there are significant downward trends in the Mediterranean countries in normalized and gap-filled fatalities, persons affected and monetary losses, whereas opposite or not statistically significant trends are observed in the other parts of Europe. This difference is partly because flash floods constitute a larger share of events in the Mediterranean region than in the northern European countries.

    The decline in fatalities and number of persons affected due to flash flood events are larger than those from river floods.

    For economic losses, they are broadly similar. The findings presented here include several uncertainties. One is the completeness of the database of historical floods. In principle, per each major flood event in the record, there should also be multiple smaller ones. If we divide the flood events by severity into quintiles Fig. For example, the annual increase in number of flood events in the uppermost quintile i. This finding is also the same when splitting flood events by decile with less than 0. This points to substantial underreporting of smaller floods historically; they are simply not mentioned in contemporary publications referring to historical events.

    Yet, small floods remain important since they can have a large contribution to overall damages over longer periods of time In the present, better availability of news reports and government data improves coverage considerably. Severity of floods. Annual number of flood events classified by severity into quintiles. Classification is based on normalized and gap-filled values of losses. A summary of all adjustments to reported data is presented in Fig.

    We find that correcting for underreporting diminishes most of the upward trend observed in the number of flood events, whereas it only slightly reduces the growth in area inundated. Yet, given the very small number of recorded flood extents even for the most recent events , there is considerable uncertainty in both gap-filling and the correction applied for underreporting.

    The decline in number of fatalities becomes more pronounced with every adjustment and the gap-filled data suggest that the number of people affected peaked in the midth century, with no significant trend thereafter. After all corrections are applied, a downward trend in financial losses becomes apparent, although for losses normalized by wealth a mid-century peak is indicated. In total, we estimate that flooding affected 0. Flood losses in year periods.

    Reported number of flood events and their consequences is summed per year periods, with three types of adjustments: normalization, gap-filling of missing normalized loss data and estimation of underreporting of small flood events and normalized damages they caused, for a number of events; b area inundated; c fatalities; d persons affected; e financial value of losses with normalization by GDP; and f financial value of losses with normalization by wealth. Here, we used year flood hazard zones from pan-European modeling carried out in project RAIN, which correspond to the climate and physical geography of the — period.

    However, we acknowledge that not every flood in the database is a year event, and that the year floodplain boundaries do not remain stationary over time, given, for example, changes in climate, river geometry, urban development, or construction of hydraulic structures 52 , But, because detailed, local flood hazard maps and recorded outlines for historical floods are not readily available for all locations in Europe, we use the year floodplain as a proxy for floodplain extent and as a delineation of areas subject to high flood hazards.

    To validate the assumption that the year is a viable proxy, we recalculated the results for England using flood extents from a comprehensive study by the Environment Agency EA Trends in exposure inside and outside the flood hazard zones are very similar for both pan-European maps from RAIN project and more detailed maps from EA Fig. The normalized number of affected persons within actual flood outlines recorded by EA yields an annual downward trend for — of 3.

    However, the records are dominated by just a few events, especially the Thames valley flood and country-wide summer flood, hence there is large uncertainty in this comparison. The total normalized number of people within EA flood outlines for — is 1. Validation of flood trends. The trends were calculated using Poisson regression.

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    We also analyzed trends in reported annual losses for Poland between and based on national government statistics Supplementary Fig. For inflation-adjusted, but not normalized, losses an annual upward trend of 3. Correcting for national GDP growth, reported annual losses still increase by 1.