The 5th and the last MONTCLIMA transnational seminar took place on September 20 and 21 in Andorra la Vella.
This great opportunity allowed around 50 participants to discuss key aspects of the local and international strategies, tools and good practices for torrential floods prevention and management in mountain areas of southwest of Europe. A series of lectures were given by experts in the field. They provided knowledge and shared concrete experiences aiming to improve the characterization of torrential risks, to reduce the vulnerability of populations and strategic infrastructures, and to reduce the impact of these phenomena in mountain areas of the SUDOE region.
The day was structured in three different blocks; (i) knowledge of natural hazards, their effects and vulnerabilities of the territory, (ii) reducing the vulnerability of assets and people, (iii) reducing the impact of the phenomenon.
First, Jean Louis Valls, the director of the Working community of the Pyrenees (CTP) welcomed the audience and introduced the seminar by underlining the importance of cooperation as a key element to improve the natural risks prevention and management in the context of rapid global changes. He highlighted that extreme events, especially floods and storms, are causing heavy damages and losses every year around Europe, and that these phenomena are becoming more frequent and intense due to human-induced climate change. In fact, between 1980 and 2020, extreme weather and climate events accounted for about 80% of the total economic losses due to natural hazards in Europe.
The general introduction was followed by a very interesting and informative presentation regarding the general framework for flood risk management in Europe and Spain (flood directive 2007) provided by Juan Francisco Arrazol from the Spanish Ministry of Ecological Transition (MITECO). He underlined a gap in the management and prevention of floods in high mountain basins but stated numerous actions nonetheless dedicated to hydrological-forest restoration to reduce flood and erosion risks (with environmental co-benefits). Moreover, specific tools with various cartographies (DPH, flood zones) are available on the MITECO website, where areas of special interest, defined jointly with Civil Protection, are also identified. In this second cycle of application of the directive, an attempt has been made to include as a novelty, the effects of climate change on flood risk. Prevention efforts are focused on urban planning and land use regulations, on the basis of risk analysis and vulnerability analysis.
The first block on knowledge of natural hazards, their effects and vulnerabilities of the territory, featured Francesco Dottori from the JRC Disaster Risk Management Unit. Francesco presented the European Union’s Earth Observation Program: Copernicus program, and more specifically the Copernicus Emergency Management Service (CEMS). CEMS provides information with a global reach for emergency preparation, response and recovery activities in relation to natural and man-made hazards. Many of these Copernicus-based analysis tools are available to all users such as EFAS (European Flood Awareness System) which is the main early warning tool for flood management in Europe and provides real-time information with 15-day forecasts. Francesco presented four EFAS products providing complementary tools for monitoring on-going floods, river flood forecast hazard, river flood forecast impact, and flash flood forecasts and impacts. Francesco rigorously explained the CEMS components designed to respond to the recurrent need for forecasting transnational floods with sufficient lead time to allow coordination at the European scale.
Carmen Llasat from Universitat de Barcelona introduced the main results of the POCTEFA PIRAGUA project that studied the floods events in the Pyrenees. Carmen first commented that between 1981 and 2015, there have been 181 flood episodes in the Pyrenees mountain range. As a consequence, there have been a minimum of 147 deaths and compensations amounted to 100 M €. Carmen then proceeded by explaining that the risks is determined by vulnerability, exposure and hazard. She highlighted the distribution of vulnerability across the Pyrenees influenced by the concentration of the highest population density in the Pyrenees mainly on the northern slope. In this study, Carmen underlined discordance between precipitations and floods occurrence, which lies in the fact that many of the extreme events (less than 24h) that produce torrential floods episodes are difficult to capture by the current recording stations. Carmen concluded by reporting a positive trend observed in the number of flood episodes at the scale of the entire Pyrenees and in almost all regions, but only statistically significant in Nouvelle-Aquitaine. Future scenarios point to an increase of heavy rainfalls and torrentiality, and the exposed value is increasing due to important population increase in spring, summer and autumn, when floods are more frequent.