River flow

Indicator Specification
Indicator codes: CLIM 016
Created 03 Apr 2014 Published 03 Apr 2014 Last modified 04 Sep 2015, 06:59 PM
Topics: , ,
This indicator shows the trends in monthly stream flow over more than 4 decades for locations across Europe. The indicator also shows the projected change in annual and seasonal river flow in Europe for 2071-2100 (SRES A1B scenario) compared to 1961-1990. For some selected locations, the projected change in daily average river flow for 2071-2100 compared to 1961-1990 is shown.

Assessment versions

Published (reviewed and quality assured)

Rationale

Justification for indicator selection

River flow is a measure of overall fresh water availability in a river basin. Variations in river flow are determined mainly by the seasonality of precipitation and temperature, as well as by catchment characteristics such as geology, soils and land cover. Changes in temperature and precipitation patterns due to climate change modify the annual water budget of river basins as well as the timing and seasonality of river flows. The consequent changes in water availability may adversely affect ecosystems and several socio-economic sectors including abstraction for drinking water, agriculture, industry, energy production and navigation. Extreme dry periods with low river flow events can have considerable economic, societal and environmental impacts.

Scientific references

  • Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis The Working Group I contribution to the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) considers new evidence of climate change based on many independent scientific analyses from observations of the climate system, paleoclimate archives, theoretical studies of climate processes and simulations using climate models. It builds upon the Working Group I contribution to the IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report (AR4), and incorporates subsequent new findings of research. As a component of the fifth assessment cycle, the IPCC Special Report on Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation (SREX) is an important basis for information on changing weather and climate extremes.

Indicator definition

This indicator shows the trends in monthly stream flow over more than 4 decades for locations across Europe.

The indicator also shows the projected change in annual and seasonal river flow in Europe for 2071-2100 (SRES A1B scenario) compared to 1961-1990.

For some selected locations, the projected change in daily average river flow for 2071-2100 compared to 1961-1990 is shown.

Units

The units are respectively

  • the standard deviation per year (sigma/year)
  • percentage (%)
  • cubic metres per second (m³/s)

Policy context and targets

Context description

In April 2013 the European Commission presented the EU Adaptation Strategy Package (http://ec.europa.eu/clima/policies/adaptation/what/documentation_en.htm). This package consists of the EU Strategy on adaptation to climate change (COM/2013/0216 final) and a number of supporting documents. One of the objectives of the EU Adaptation Strategy is Better informed decision-making, which should occur through Bridging the knowledge gap and Further developing Climate-ADAPT as the ‘one-stop shop’ for adaptation information in Europe. Further objectives include Promoting action by Member States and Climate-proofing EU action: promoting adaptation in key vulnerable sectors. Many EU Member States have already taken action, such as by adopting national adaptation strategies, and several have also prepared action plans on climate change adaptation.

The European Commission and the European Environment Agency have developed the European Climate Adaptation Platform (Climate-ADAPT, http://climate-adapt.eea.europa.eu/) to share knowledge on observed and projected climate change and its impacts on environmental and social systems and on human health; on relevant research; on EU, national and subnational adaptation strategies and plans; and on adaptation case studies.

Targets

No targets have been specified.

Related policy documents

Methodology

Methodology for indicator calculation

Streamflow trends are calculated by the slopes of the Kendall-Theil robust line for standardized annual and monthly streamflow, as well as for summer low flow magnitude and timing. Streamflow records from 441 small catchments in 15 countries across Europe.

Projected change in mean annual and seasonal river flow between the climate change scenario (SRES A1B, 2071–2100) and the control period (1961–1990) are shown. Simulations with LISFLOOD based on an ensemble of 11 RCMs.

Projected change in daily average river flow between 1961–1990 (black line) and 2071–2100 (blue line) were simulated with LISFLOOD and driven by HIRHAM – HadAM3H/HadCM3 based on IPCC scenario A2.

Methodology for gap filling

Not applicable

Methodology references

Data specifications

EEA data references

  • No datasets have been specified here.

Data sources in latest figures

Uncertainties

Methodology uncertainty

Not applicable

Data sets uncertainty

Detailed data on water quantity is often difficult to assess, and homogeneous time series are generally shorter than those for meteorological data. It may, therefore, require substantially more time before statistically significant changes in hydrological variables can be observed than for meteorological variables, especially with respect to extreme events (floods and droughts). Quantitative projections of changes in precipitation and river flows at the basin scale remain highly uncertain due to the limitations of climate models and to scaling issues between climate and hydrological models.

Further information on uncertainties is provided in Section 1.7 of the EEA report on Climate change, impacts, and vulnerability in Europe 2012 (http://www.eea.europa.eu/publications/climate-impacts-and-vulnerability-2012/)

Rationale uncertainty

No uncertainty has been specified

Further work

Short term work

Work specified here requires to be completed within 1 year from now.

Long term work

Work specified here will require more than 1 year (from now) to be completed.

General metadata

Responsibility and ownership

EEA Contact Info

Wouter Vanneuville

Ownership

Joint Research Centre (JRC)
European Environment Agency (EEA)

Identification

Indicator code
CLIM 016
Specification
Version id: 3
Primary theme: Climate change Climate change

Frequency of updates

Updates are scheduled every 4 years

Classification

DPSIR: Impact
Typology: Descriptive indicator (Type A - What is happening to the environment and to humans?)

Related content

Data references used

Latest figures and vizualizations

Relevant policy documents

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