Floods Working Group



The Floods Working Group (FWG) aims to bring together all the scientific communities reconstructing past floods (historians, geologists, geographers, etc.) and those studying current and future floods (hydrologists, modelers, statisticians, etc.) to coordinate, synthesize and promote data and results on the natural variability of floods.


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- To intensify efforts to collect, standardize and disseminate the collaborative Flood Database.
- To integrate pluri-archive flood time series and to share best practices of methodologies to statistically analyze paleoflood data.
- To improve engagement with stakeholders and policymakers.
- To reach these goals, the Working Group has been structured into three Work Packages.


Juan Antonio Ballesteros Canovas
(University of Geneva, Switzerland)
Lothar Schulte
(University of Barcelona, Spain)
Bruno Wilhelm
(Université Grenoble Alps, France)

Workshop participants 2016

floods group photo wshop 2016


Phase 1
Phase 2

Flood impacts are increasing worldwide. This trend is expected to continue due to:

- an increase of exposed populations living on floodplains; and
- changes in the hydrological cycle and frequency of extreme events caused by global warming.

Robust flood and risk assessments are therefore crucial. In this context long time series enable us to learn from the past how to adapt future climate change and improve the resilience of exposed population worldwide.

Evidence-based approaches play an important role on defining reliable flood hazard scenarios; especially because model-based outcomes present so far a high degree of inconsistence and uncertainties of future projections.

Paleoflood records from riverine, lacustrine, and marine sediments, botanical, speleothems, and historical documents, analyzed with state-of-the-art statistical tools, can provide a more comprehensive understanding of the variability of past extreme flood events and substantially improve the reliability of future flood-risk predictions. All of these data can significantly enhance our understanding of the physical processes controlling the occurrence and magnitude of floods under varying past, present and near future climate states, as well as under varying human impact in the watersheds (e.g. Neolithic, Medieval Age, Modern Ages, Industrial Age).


Example of a destructive flood triggered by heavy precipitation, 22-23 August 2005, Sainte-Agnès, France. (Credit: D. Thillet)

Phase 2 (2019-2022)

The activities of Phase 2 will continue to reinforce the exchange between researchers. The main activities to be performed in Phase 2 are based on the White paper co-generated between all FWG members. This White paper shows the collaborative philosophy of the FWG and deciphers the main milestones for the next three years.
Read the Floods Working Group White Paper here. (pdf, 390KB)

The recent occurrence of devastating floods worldwide has increased awareness about the natural variability and the climatic forcing of these extreme events; opening the question whether or not past records could be used as future analogues in a 1.5-2°C warmer world. FWG aims to contribute solid key-data of past floods i) to include low-frequency large flood events scenarios in flood hazard assessment (i.e. flood frequency analysis) and ii) to improve our knowledge to anticipate the impact of future extreme floods. This is highly relevant, especifically in regions of the world where exposed populations living in floodplains are significantly increasing year-by-year.


Activities during Phase 2 include:

Mid-2019: Meeting of key participants to discuss research questions, organization, and planning of the second phase. First contact to be held in Prague organized by Libor Elleder. Goal: This meeting will aim to produce regional syntheses on existing paleofloods records as well as to co-define key milestones and deliverables for the second phase. This meeting will make a special effort to involve ECRs.

Mid-2020: Second online Work Packages meeting to continue methodological discussions, with the goal to track the achievement of the defined goals. Goal: Show and discuss recent advances in the field.

Mid-2021: Third workshop with a focus to move from methodological aspects to practical issues on human impact on flooding. Goal: Provide final results and define the strategy for the future; show and discuss recent advances in the field.

Phase 1 (2015-2018)

During Phase 1, the Floods Working Group (FWG) worked to gather the expertise of geologists, geographers, hydrologists, historians, modelers and statisticians to better understand the flood variability and impacts worldwide. FWG created a network of more than 100 researchers worldwide. Thus, the FWG has functioned as an excellence platform to promote collaboration among the researchers from different disciplines and to foster scientific progresses, and especially to help the young research generation connect with with senior researchers.

FWG reached the defined goals (see report), and has been structured around three Work Packages (WP1, WP2, WP3) that constitute the identified main topics.

2018 annual meeting update

The Floods Working Group held their annual meeting on 11 April during the EGU in Vienna, Austria.

Access the meeting minutes here. (pdf, 60KB)
Access the meeting presentation here. (pdf, 3.7MB)
Access the Work Packages presentation here. (pdf, 1.8MB)

Fig FWG website2

Figure 1: Schematic illustration of the concept and goals of the Floods Working Group. Data on past floods will be collected from a variety of archive types, integrated into a database, statistically analyzed, and climatically modeled and interpreted.

Learn more and participate

Subscribe to the Floods Working Group mailing list here.

This group is open to anyone who is interested. To participate, please contact one of the leaders.