Floods evolution in the Mediterranean region in a context of climate and environmental change





Floods, flash floods, climate change, natural hazards, Mediterranean region


Floods are the most important risk in the Mediterranean region, both due to their frequency and impact. Studies of historical floods show flood-rich periods that could be associated with climate causes, but there is also a certain growing trend as a result of changes in land use and increased vulnerability. If climate scenarios point to an increase in the torrentiality of precipitation, with longer dry periods and more intense rainfall, there is still a high level of uncertainty in their impact in floods. This paper addresses this issue, also considering the complex role of changes to hazards, vulnerability, exposure and capacity. It presents a synthesis of the state of the art, with particular incidence in the first results of MedECC and the most recent bibliography on floods trend. Conclusions show that floods in this region are mainly consequence of flash-flood events. A common positive trend of flash floods in the past probably due to land use changes and the occupation of flood-prone areas has been found (high confidence). The increase of convective precipitation could also justify this positive trend in the most recent period, in some regions (low confidence). Vulnerabilities to water related hazards are expected to be influenced by the future socio-economic conditions at the regional scale (medium confidence). Although expected changes in flood risks are not univocal, nor evenly distributed, flood impacts will increase in the entire Mediterranean region, mainly as a consequence of global changes in the catchments (land use, vulnerability, exposure), joined in the Northern part of the basin to the increase of heavy rainfalls (medium confidence).


Download data is not yet available.

Author Biography

María Carmen Llasat, University of Barcelona

Full Professor of Atmospheric Physics

Department of Applied Physics

University of Barcelona


Alfieri, L., Burek, P., Feyen, L., Forzieri, G. 2015. Global warming increases the frequency of river floods in Europe. Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci. 19, 2247-2260. https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-19-2247-2015

Aroca-Jiménez, A., Bodoque, J.M., García, J.A., Díez-Herrero, A. 2018. A quantitative methodology for the assessment of the regional economic vulnerability to flash floods. Journal of Hydrology 565, 386-399. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jhydrol.2018.08.029

Barredo, J.I., Saurí, D., Llasat, M.C. 2012. Assessing trends in insured losses from floods in Spain 1971-2008. Nat. Hazards Earth Syst. Sci. 12, 1723-1729. https://doi.org/10.5194/nhess-12-1723-2012

Barrera-Escoda, A., Llasat, M.C., 2015. Evolving flood patterns in a Mediterranean region (1301-2012) and climatic factors – the case of Catalonia. Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci. 19, 465-483. https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-19-465-2015

Barriendos, M., Coeur, D., Lang, M., Llasat, M.C., Naulet, R., Lemaitre, F., Barrera, A., 2003. Stationarity analysis of historical flood series in France and Spain (14th-20th centuries). Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences 3, 583-592.

Barriendos, M., Llasat, M.C. 2003. The case of the ‘Maldá’Anomaly in the Western Mediterranean basin (AD 1760-1800): An example of a strong climatic variability. Clim. Change 61, 191-216. https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1026327613698

Barriendos, M., Gil-Guirado, S., Pino, D., Tuset, J., Pérez-Morales, A., Alberola, A., Costa, J., Balasch, J.C., Castelltorth, X., Mazón, J., Ruiz-Bellet, J. L. 2019. Climatic and social factors behind the Spanish Mediterranean flood event chronologies from documentary sources (14th-20th centuries). Global and Planetary Change 182, 102997. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gloplacha.2019.102997

Benito, G., Lang, M., Barriendos, M., Llasat, M.C., Francés, F., Ouarda, T., Thorndycraft, V., Enzel, Y., Bardossy, A., Coeur, D., Bobée, B. 2004. Use of Systematic, Palaeoflood and Historical Data for the Improvement of Flood Risk Estimation. Review of Scientific Methods. Natural Hazards 31, 623-643. https://doi.org/10.1023/B:NHAZ.0000024895.48463.eb

Blöschl, G., Hall, J., Viglione, A. et al. 2019. Changing climate both increases and decreases European river floods. Nature 573, 108-111. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-019-1495-6.

Blöschl, G., Kiss, A., Viglione, A. et al. 2020. Current flood-rich period is exceptional compared to the past 500 years in Europe. Nature. 583, 560-566. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-020-2478-3.

Braud, I., Roux, H., Anquetin, S., Maubourguet, M.M., Manus, C., Viallet, P., Dartus, D., 2010. The use of distributed hydrological models for the Gard 2002 flash flood event: analysis of associated hydrological processes. J. Hydrol. 394 (1-2), 162-181. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jhydrol.2010.03.033

Burek, P., Knijff van der, J., Roo de, A. 2013. LISFLOOD, distributed water balance and flood simulation model revised user manual 2013. European Commission Joint Research Centre Institute for the Protection and the Security of the Citizen Publications Office, Luxembourg.

Camici, S., Brocca, L., Moramarco, T. 2017. Accuracy versus variability of climate projections for flood assessment in central Italy. Climatic Change 141, 273-286. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-016-1876-x

Colmet-Daage, A., Sanchez-Gomez, E., Ricci, S., Llovel, C., Borrell Estupina, V., Quintana-Seguí, P., Llasat, M.C., Servat, E. 2018. Evaluation of uncertainties in mean and extreme precipitation under climate changes for northwestern Mediterranean watersheds from high-resolution Med and Euro-CORDEX ensembles. Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci. 22, 673-687. https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-22-673-2018

Cortès, M., Turco, M., Llasat-Botija, M., Llasat, M.C. 2018. The relationship between precipitation and insurance data for floods in a Mediterranean region (Northeast Spain). NHESS. Nat. Hazards Earth Syst. Sci. 18, 857-868. https://doi.org/10.5194/nhess-18-857-2018.

Cortès, M., Turco, M., Ward, Ph., Sánchez-Espigares, J., Alfieri, L., Llasat, M.C. 2019. Changes in flood damage with global warming in the east coast of Spain. Nat. Hazards Earth Syst. Sci. 19, 2855-2877. https://doi.org/10.5194/nhess-2019-253

Cramer, W., Guiot, J., Fader, M., Garrabou, J., Gattuso, J.P., Iglesias, A., Lange, M.A., Lionello, P., Llasat, M.C., Paz, S., Peñuelas, J., Snoussi, M., Toreti, A., Tsimplis, M.N., Xoplaki, E. 2018. Climate change and interconnected risks to sustainable development in the Mediterranean. Nature Climate Change 8, 972-980. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41558-018-0299-2

CRED-UNISDR. 2015. The Human Cost of Weather-Related Disasters 1995-2015. https://www.unisdr.org/files/46796_cop21weatherdisastersreport2015.pdf

Diakakis, M. 2014. An inventory of flood events in Athens, Greece, during the last 130 years, seasonality and spatial distribution. Journal of Flood Risk Management 7 (4), 332-342. https://doi.org/10.1111/jfr3.12053

Ermolli, I., Matthes, K., Dudok de Wit, T., Krivova, N. A., Tourpali, K., Weber, M., Unruh, Y. C., Gray, L., Langematz, U., Pilewskie, P., Rozanov, E., Schmutz, W., Shapiro, A., Solanki, S. K., Woods, T. N. 2013. Recent variability of the solar spectral irradiance and its impact on climate modelling, Atmos. Chem. Phys., 13, 3945-3977. https://doi.org/10.5194/acp-13-3945-2013

Gaume, E., Borga, M., Llasat, M.C., Maouche, S., Lang, M., Diakakis, M. 2016. Mediterranean extreme floods and flash floods (Sub-chapter 1.3.4). In: IRD and Allenvi (Eds.). The Mediterranean Region under Climate Change. A Scientific Update, IRD Editions, pp. 133-144, Marseille.

Gilabert, J., Llasat, M.C. 2017. Circulation weather types associated with extreme flood events in Northwestern Mediterranean. International Journal of Climatology 38 (4), 1864-1876. https://doi.org/10.1002/joc.5301

Gil-Guirado, S., Pérez-Morales, A., López-Martinez, F. 2019. SMC-Flood database: a high-resolution press database on flood cases for the Spanish Mediterranean coast (1960-2015). Nat. Hazards Earth Syst. Sci 19, 1955-1971. https://doi.org/10.5194/nhess-19-1955-2019

Habets, F., Boone, A., Champeaux, J.L., Etchevers, P., Franchisteguy, L., Leblois, E., Ledoux, E., Le Moigne, P., Martin, E., Morel, S., Noilhan, J., Quintana-Segui, P., Rousset-Regimbeau, F., Viennot, P. 2008. The SAFRAN-ISBA-MODCOU hydrometeorological model applied over France. J. Geophys. Res. 113, D06113, https://doi.org/10.1029/2007JD008548

Hall, J., Arheimer, B., Borga, M., Brázdil, R., Claps, P., Kiss, A., Kjeldsen, T.R., Kriaučiūnienė, J., Kundzewicz, Z.W., Lang, M., Llasat, M.C., Macdonald, N., McIntyre, N., Mediero, L., Merz, B., Merz, R., Molnar, P., Montanari, A., Neuhold, C., Parajka1, J., Perdigão, R.A.P, Plavcová1,L., Rogger. M., Salinas, J.L., Sauquet, E., Schär, C., Szolgay, J., Viglione, A., Blöschl, G. 2014. Understanding Flood Regime Changes in Europe: A state of the art assessment. Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci. 18, 2735-2772. https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-18-2735-2014

Hally, A., Caumont, O., Garrote, L., Richard, E., Weerts, A., Delogu, F., Fiori, E., Rebora, N., Parodi, A., Mihalovic, A., Ivkovic, M., Dekic, L., van Verseveld, W., Nuissier, O., Ducrocq, V., D’Agostino, D., Galizia, A., Danovaro, E., Clematis, A., 2015. Hydrometeorological multi-model ensemble simulations of the 4 November 2011 flash flood event in Genoa, Italy, in the framework of the DRIHM project. Nat. Hazards Earth Syst. Sci. 15, 537-555. https://doi.org/10.5194/nhess-15-537-2015

Hosking, J. R. M. 1990. L-Moments: Analysis and Estimation of Distributions Using Linear Combinations of Order Statistics. J. R. Stat. Soc. Ser. B 52, 105-124. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.2517-6161.1990.tb01775.x

Insua-Costa, D., Miguez-Macho, G., Llasat, M.C. 2019. The role of remote and local moisture sources in the two famous 1982 Western Mediterranean torrential rainfall episodes. Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci. 23, 3885-3900, https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-23-3885-2019.

IPCC. 2012. Managing the risks of extreme events and disasters to advance climate change adaption (SREX) Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Cambridge University Press, 582 pp., Cambridge.

IPCC. 2014. AR5 Synthesis Report: Climate Change 2014. https://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar5/syr/

IPCC. 2018. Global warming of 1.5. https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/

Jacob, D., Petersen, J., Eggert, B., Alias, A., Bøssing, O., Bouwer, L. M., Braun, A., Colette, A., Georgopoulou, E., Gobiet, A., Menut, L., Nikulin, G., Haensler, A., Kriegsmann, A., Martin, E., Meijgaard, E. V., Moseley, C., Pfeifer, S. 2014. EURO-CORDEX: new high-resolution climate change projections for European impact research. Regional Environmental Change 35, 563-578. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10113-013-0499-2

Jansà, A., Alpert, P., Arbogast, P., Buzzi, A., Ivancan-Picek, B., Kotroni, V., Llasat, M.C., Ramis, C., Richard, E., Romero, R., Speranza, A. 2014. MEDEX: a general overview. Nat. Hazards Earth Syst. Sci. 14, 1965-198. https://doi.org/10.5194/nhess-14-1965-2014

Kendall, M. G. 1975. Rank Correlation Methods, Fourth Edition. Charles Griffin, London.

Koenker, R., Basset, B. G. 1978. Regression quantiles. Econometrica 46, 33-50.

Kreibich, H., Di Baldassarre, G., Vorogushyn, S., Aerts, J. C. J. H., Apel, H., G.T. Aronica, Arnbjerg‐Nielsen, K., Bouwer, L.M., Bubeck, P., Caloiero, T., Chinh, D.T., Cortès, M., Gain, A.K., Giampá, V., Kuhlicke, C., Kundzewicz, Z.B., Llasat, M.C., Mård, J., Matczak, P., Mazzoleni, M., Molinari, D., Dung, N.V., Petrucci, O., Schröter, K., Slager, K., Thieken, A.H., Ward, P.J., Mertz, B. 2017. Adaptation to flood risk – results of international paired flood event studies. Earth’s Future 5, 953-965, https://doi.org/10.1002/2017EF000606

Llasat, M.C., Barriendos, M., Barrera, A., Rigo, T. 2005. Floods in Catalonia (NE Spain) since the 14th century. Climatological and meteorological aspects from historical documentary sources and old instrumental records. Journal of Hydrology 313, 32-47 https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jhydrol.2005.02.004

Llasat, M.C., Llasat-Botija, M., López, L. 2009. A press database on natural risks and its application in the study of floods in northeastern Spain. Nat. Hazards Earth Syst. Sci., Sci. 9, 2049-2061. https://doi.org/10.5194/nhess-9-2049-2009

Llasat, M.C., Llasat-Botija, M., Petrucci, O., Pasqua, A.A., Rosselló, J., Vinet, F., Boissier, L. 2013a. Towards a database on societal impact of Mediterranean floods in the framework of the HYMEX project. Nat. Hazards Earth Syst. Sci. 13, 1-14. https://www.doi.org/10.5194/nhess-13-1-2013

Llasat, M.C., Llasat-Botija, M., Petrucci, O., Pasqua, A.A., Rosselló, J., Vinet, F., Boissier, L. 2013b. Floods in the North-Western Mediterranean Region: presentation of the HYMEX database and comparison with pre-existing global databases. La Houille Blanche 1, 5-9. https://doi.org/10.1051/lhb/2013001

Llasat, M.C., R. Marcos, M. Llasat-Botija, J. Gilabert, M. Turco, P. Quintana, 2014. Flash flood evolution in North-Western Mediterranean. Atmospheric Research 149, 230-243. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.atmosres.2014.05.024

Llasat, M.C., Marcos, R., Turco, M., Gilabert, J., Llasat-Botija, M. 2016a. Trends in flash flood events versus convective precipitation in the Mediterranean region: The case of Catalonia. Journal of Hydrology, 541, 24-37. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jhydrol.2016.05.040

Llasat, M.C., Cortés, M., Falcón, LI., Gilabert, J., Llasat-Botija, M., Marcos, R., Martín Vide, J.P., Turco, M. 2016b. A multifactorial analysis of flood variability in the Metropolitan Area of Barcelona. Proceedings International Conference on Urban Risks, ICUR 2016. Lisbon.

Llasat, M.C., del Moral, A., Cortés, M., Rigo, T., in rev. Convective precipitation trends in the Spanish Mediterranean region. Accepted. Atmospheric Research

Mangini, W., Viglione, A., Hall, J., Hundecha, Y., Ceola, S., Montanari, A., Rogger, M., Salinas, J.L., Borzì, I., Parajka, J. 2018. Detection of trends in magnitude and frequency of flood peaks across Europe. Hydrological Sciences Journal 63(4), 493-512. https://doi.org/10.1080/02626667.2018.1444766

Mann, H. B. 1945. Non-parametric tests against trend. Econometrica 13, 163-171.

Martín, A., Romero, R., Homar, V., de Luque, A., Alonso, S., Rigo, T., Llasat, M.C., 2007. Sensitivities of a flash flood event over Catalonia: a numerical analysis. Mon. Weather Rev. 135, 651-669. https://doi.org/10.1175/MWR3316.1

MedECC, 2019. Risks associated to climate and environmental changes in the Mediterranean region. Preliminary assessment by the MedECC Network Science-policy interface. https://www.medecc.org/medecc-booklet-isk-associated-to-climate-and-environmental-changes-in-the-mediterranean-region/

MedECC, 2020. Climate and Environmental Change in the Mediterranean Basin – Current Situation and Risks for the Future. In: W. Cramer, J. Guiot, K. Marini (Eds.). First Mediterranean Assessment Report Union for the Mediterranean, Plan Bleu, UNEP/MAP, Marseille, France, 600 pp.

Mediero, L., Santillán, D., Garrote, L., Granados, A. 2014. Detection and attribution of trends in magnitude, frequency and timing of floods in Spain, J. Hydrol. 517, 1072-1088. https://www.doi.org/10.1016/j.jhydrol.2014.06.040.

Merz, B., Vorogushyn, S., Uhlemann, S., Delgado, J., Hundecha, Y. 2012. More efforts and scientific rigour are needed to attribute trends in flood time series. Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci. 16, 1379-1387. https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-16-1379-2012

Montanari, A. 2012. Hydrology of the Po River: looking for changing patterns in river discharge. Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci. 16, 3739-3747. https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-16-3739-2012

Nakamura, I., Llasat, M.C. 2017. Policy and systems of flood risk management: a comparative study between Japan and Spain Natural. Hazards 87, 919. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11069-017-2802-x

O’Neill, B.C., Kriegler, E., Riahi, K., Ebi, K. L., Hallegatte, S., Carter, T.R., Mathur, R., van Vuuren, D.P. 2014. A new scenario framework for climate change research: the concept of shared socioeconomic pathways. Climatic change 122, 387-400. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-013-0905-2

Papagiannaki, K., Lagouvardos, K., Kotroni, V., Bezes, A. 2015. Flash flood occurrence and relation to the rainfall hazard in a highly urbanized area. Nat. Hazards Earth Syst. Sci. 15, 1859-1871, https://doi.org/10.5194/nhess-15-1859-2015.

Pastor, F., Valiente, J.A., Khodayar, S., 2020. A Warming Mediterranean: 38 Years of Increasing Sea Surface Temperature. Remote Sens. 12, 2687. https://doi.org/10.3390/rs12172687

Petrucci, O., Aceto, L., Bianchi, C., Bigot, V., Brázdil, R., Pereira, S., Kahraman, A., Kılıç, O., Kotroni, V., Llasat, M.C., Llasat-Botija, M., Papagiannaki, K., Pasqua, A.A., Řehoř, J., Rossello Geli, J., Salvati, P., Vinet, F., Zêzere, J.L. 2019. Flood Fatalities in Europe, 1980-2018: Variability, Features, and Lessons to Learn. Water 11, 1682. https://doi.org/10.3390/w11081682

Piras, M., Mascaro, G., Deidda, R., Vivoni, E. R. 2016. Impacts of climate change on precipitation and discharge extremes through the use of statistical downscaling approaches in a Mediterranean basin. Sci. Total Environ. 543, 952-964. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2015.06.088

Quintana-Seguí, P., Le Moigne, P., Durand, Y., Martin, E., Habets, F., Baillon, M., Canellas, C., Franchisteguy, L., Morel, S. 2008. Analysis of Near-Surface Atmospheric Variables: Validation of the SAFRAN Analysis over France. J. Appl. Meteorol. Clim. 47, 92-107. https://doi.org/10.1175/2007JAMC1636.1

Renard, B., Lang, M., Bois, P., Dupeyrat, A., Mestre, O., Niel, H., Sauquet, E., Prudhomme, C., Parey, S., Paquet, E., Neppel, L., Gailhard, J. 2008. Regional methods for trend detection: assessing field significance and regional consistency. Water Resour. Res. 44 (8). https://doi.org/10.1029/2007WR006268

Romero, R., Ramis, C., Guijarro, J.A., 1999. Daily rainfall patterns in the Spanish Mediterranean area: An objective classification. Int. J. Climatol. 19, 95-112. https://doi.org/10.1002/(SICI)1097-0088(199901)19:1<95::AID-JOC344>3.0.CO;2-S

Sen, P. K. 1968. Estimates of the regression coefficient based on Kendall’s tau. J. Am. Stat. Assoc. 63, 1379-1389.

Thielen, J., Bartholmes, J., Ramos, M.H., de Roo, A. 2009. The European Flood Alert System – Part 1: Concept and development. Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci. 13, 125-140, https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-13-125-2009

Tramblay, Y., Hertig, S. 2018. Modelling extreme dry spells in the Mediterranean region in connection with atmospheric circulation. Atmospheric Research 202, 40-48, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.atmosres.2017.11.015

Tramblay, Y., Somot, S. 2018. Future evolution of extreme precipitation in the Mediterranean. Climatic Change 151, 289-302. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-018-2300-5

Tramblay, Y., Mimeau, L., Neppel, L., Vinet, F., Sauquet, E. 2019. Detection and attribution of flood trends in Mediterranean basins. Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci. 23, 4419-4431. https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-23-4419-2019.

Turco, M., Rosa-Cánovas, J.J., Bedia, J., Jerez, S., Montávez, J.P., Llasat, M.C., Provenzale, A. 2018. Exacerbated fires in Mediterranean Europe due to anthropogenic warming projected with nonstationary climate-fire models. Nature Communications 9, 3821. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-018-06358-z

UNISDR 2009. Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction 2009. Geneva, Switzerland. https://www.undrr.org/publication/global-assessment-report-disaster-risk-reduction-2009

UNDRR 2020. Hazard. Definition and classification review. Technical Report. 87 pp. https://www.undrr.org/publication/hazard-definition-and-classification-review

Vinet, F., Bigot, V., Petrucci, O., Papagiannaki, K., Llasat, M.C., Kotroni, V. Boissier, L., Aceto, L., Grimalt, M., Llasat-Botija, M., Pasqua, A.A., Rossello, J., Kılıç, Ö., Kahraman, A., Tramblay, Y. 2019. Mapping Flood-Related Mortality in the Mediterranean Basin. Results from the MEFF v2.0 DB. Water 11, 2196. https://doi.org/10.3390/w11102196




How to Cite

Llasat MC. Floods evolution in the Mediterranean region in a context of climate and environmental change. CIG [Internet]. 2021 May 17 [cited 2023 Dec. 2];47(1):13-32. Available from: https://publicaciones.unirioja.es/ojs/index.php/cig/article/view/4897