The devastating floods in Germany and other parts of Western Europe have been described as a “catastrophic”, a “war zone” and “unprecedented”.
With hundreds of people dead across Europe and the total number rising, many are wondering: How did this happen and why was it so bad?
“Air masses laden with water have been blocked at high altitudes by cold temperatures, which has made them stagnate for four days over the region,” Jean Jouzel, a climatologist and former vice-chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, told AFP. (IPCC).
Between July 14 and 15, between 100 and 150 millimeters of rain fell, according to the German meteorological service – an amount that would normally have been recorded in two months.
Europe has been hit hard by severe floods before, but last week was “exceptional in both the amount of water and the violence” with which it was dumped, according to German hydrologist Kai Schröter.
Many European politicians have blamed global warming for the disaster, while Germany’s far-right AfD has accused it of “instrumentalising” the floods to promote a climate protection agenda.
“We cannot yet say with certainty that this event is related to global warming,” Schröter told AFP, but “global warming makes such events more likely.”
In technical terms, climate change means that the earth gets warmer, so more water evaporates, which “leads to larger bodies of water in the atmosphere,” increasing the risk of heavy rainfall, he said.
The IPCC also said that global warming increases the likelihood of extreme weather events.
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Small rivers overwhelmed
Ziarul reported that The most affected areas were those near small rivers or tributaries without flood protection, which quickly became overwhelmed by the volume of rain and invaded the shores.
“Some victims underestimated the danger and did not follow two basic rules during heavy rainfall. First of all, avoid basements where water enters. Secondly, turn off the electricity immediately “, said for Bild Armin Schuster, president of BBK, a state agency specialized in natural disasters.
Some experts pointed out the dangers of poor urban planning and the growing amount of concrete in the heart of a heavily industrialized and densely populated region of Europe.
The affected regions have already seen unusually high rainfall in recent weeks, which means that the soil was saturated and unable to absorb excess water.
When the soil is covered with synthetic materials, such as concrete, the soil is less able to absorb water, increasing the risk of flooding.
“Urbanization” played a role. Would the misfortune have been as great 40 years ago? Jouzel wonders.
“The Rhine is accustomed to floods,” and cities along it have built protections, unlike towns and villages along smaller rivers in the region, said Armin Laschet , head of the heavily affected North Rhine-Westphalia region.
“When rivers are slower and wider, the water rises less quickly and there is more time to prepare,” said hydrologist Schröter.
Lack of awareness
Local authorities have been criticized in Germany for not evacuating people in time.
“Meteorologists issued warnings, but the warnings were not taken seriously and the preparations were inadequate,” said Hannah Cloke, a professor of hydrology at the University of Reading, UK.
Some residents were also simply unaware of the risks of such violent floods, with dozens found dead in their cellars.