Global warming increases the frequency of river floods in Europe

EURO-CORDEX, a new generation of downscaled climate projections, has become available for climate change impact studies in Europe. New opportunities arise in the investigation of potential effects of a warmer world on meteorological and hydrological extremes at regional scales. In this work, an ensemble of EURO-CORDEX RCP 8.5 scenarios is used to drive a distributed hydrological model and assess the projected changes in flood hazard in Europe through the current century. Changes in magnitude and frequency of extreme streamflow events are investigated by statistical distribution fitting and peak over threshold analysis. A consistent method is proposed to evaluate the agreement of ensemble projections. Results indicate that the change in frequency of discharge extremes is likely to have a larger impact on the overall flood hazard as compared to the change in their magnitude. On average in Europe, flood peaks with return period above 100 years are projected to double in frequency within three decades.