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Earth System Dynamics An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union

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© Author(s) 2017. This work is distributed
under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
Research article
02 Jan 2017
Review status
A revision of this discussion paper is under review for the journal Earth System Dynamics (ESD).
Evaluating the atmospheric drivers leading to the December Flood 2014 in Schleswig-Holstein, Germany
Nils H. Schade Federal Maritime and Hydrographic Agency (BSH), Hamburg, D-20359, Germany
Abstract. Regional analyses of atmospheric conditions that may cause flooding of important transport infrastructure (railway tracks, highways/roads, rivers/channels) and subsequent adaptation measures are part of the Expertennetzwerk initiated by the German Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure (BMVI). As an exemplary case study, the December flood 2014 in Schleswig–Holstein, Germany, was investigated. Atmospheric conditions at the onset of the flood event are described and evaluated with respect to the general weather situation, initial wetness, and event precipitation. Predominantly persistent westerly situations directed several low pressure systems over the North Sea to Schleswig–Holstein during December 2014, accompanied by prolonged rainfall and finally a strong event precipitation in southern Schleswig–Holstein causing several inland gauges to exceed their by then maximum water levels. An additional storm surge hindering drainage of the catchments into the North and Baltic Sea could have been fatal. Results show that the antecedent precipitation index (API) is able to reflect the soil moisture conditions and, in combination with the maximum 3–day precipitation sum (R3d), to capture the two main drivers finally leading to the flood: (1) Initial wetness of north western Schleswig–Holstein, and (2) strong event precipitation in southern and eastern Schleswig–Holstein from 21–23 December while both indices exceeded their respective 5–year return periods. Further, trend analyses show that both API and R3d are increasing while regional patterns match the north eastward shift of cyclone pathways during recent years, leading to higher risk of flooding in Schleswig–Holstein. Within the Expertennetzwerk, investigations of these and further indices/drivers for earth system changes (e.g. wind surge, sea level rise, land cover changes, and others) derived from observations, reanalyses, and regional climate model data are planned for all German coastal areas: Results can be expected to lead to improved adaptation measures to floods under climate change conditions wherever catchments have to be drained and infrastructures and ecosystems may be harmed, e.g. in other Baltic Sea regions.

Citation: Schade, Nils H.: Evaluating the atmospheric drivers leading to the December Flood 2014 in Schleswig-Holstein, Germany, Earth Syst. Dynam. Discuss., doi:10.5194/esd-2016-73, in review, 2017.
Nils H. Schade
Nils H. Schade
Nils H. Schade


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