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A Two-hundred Year Analysis of Lithuanian Floods

Paper Reviewed
Meilutyte-Lukauskiene, D., Akstinas, V., Kriauciuniene, J., Sarauskiene, D. and Jurgelenaite, A. 2017. Insight into variability of spring and flash flood events in Lithuania. Acta Geophysics 65: 89-102.

Writing as background for their work, Meilutyte-Lukauskiene et al. (2017) state that, "according to the European Environment Agency, Europe suffered over 213 major damaging floods in the period 1998-2009," leading to "a much debated question [on] whether large floods have a clear riding trend." Thus, it became the objective of the five scientists to examine flood trends in Lithuania over the past century.

Lithuania has over 22,000 rivers traversing a total length of more than 37,000 km inside its boundary. Using long-term hydrological data of maximum discharge from thirty-one water gauging stations, Meilutyte-Lukauskiene et al. used non-parametric statistical methods to analyze for trends in spring (March-May) and flash (June-November) floods over the period 1922-2013. In addition, they also analyzed discharge data from the Nemunas River, which river accounts for 72% of all Lithuanian runoff flowing into the Baltic Sea, over the much longer period of 1812-2013.

So what did their analysis reveal? In the words of the authors, "during all analyzed periods (1922-2013, 1941-2013, 1961-2013, and 1991-2013), significant negative and negative trends dominated in maximum discharges of spring floods." Additionally, they note that "significant negative, negative and insignificant trends of flash floods were detected during all analyzed periods," and they say that the long-term (1812-2013) analysis of maximum discharges of the Nemunas River "proved that both spring and flash floods in Lithuania [are] getting smaller." Taken together, these findings, in the words of the authors, "confirm decrease of spring floods in Lithuania." Thus, rather than increasing flood events, it would appear that the modern warming of the past two centuries has acted to decrease them. And most people would consider that reality something for which to be grateful.

Posted 7 September 2017