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Floods of Northeast Spain Since the Fourteenth Century
Reference
Llasat, M.-C., Barriendos, M., Barrera, A. and Rigo, T. 2005. Floods in Catalonia (NE Spain) since the 14th century. Climatological and meteorological aspects from historical documentary sources and old instrumental records. Journal of Hydrology 313: 32-47.

What was done
"Starting from historical document sources, early instrumental data (basically, rainfall and surface pressure) and the most recent meteorological information," the authors say they analyzed "the temporal evolution of floods in NE Spain since the 14th century," focusing particularly on the river Segre in Lleida, the river Llobregat in El Prat, and the river Ter in Girona.

What was learned
Llasat et al.'s work revealed "an increase of flood events for the periods 1580-1620, 1760-1800 and 1830-1870," and they report that "these periods are coherent with chronologies of maximum advance in several alpine glaciers." In addition, we calculate from their tabulated data that for the aggregate of the three river basins noted above, the mean number of what Llasat et al. call catastrophic floods per century for the 14th through 19th centuries was 3.55 0.22, while the corresponding number for the 20th century was only 1.33 0.33.

What it means
The four Spanish researchers conclude their paper by stating "we may assert that, having analyzed responses inherent to the Little Ice Age and due to the low occurrence of frequent flood events or events of exceptional magnitude in the 20th century, the latter did not present an excessively problematic scenario." However, having introduced their paper with descriptions of the devastating effects of the September 1962 flash flood in Catalonia (over 800 deaths), the August 1996 flash flood in the Spanish Pyrenees (87 deaths), as well as the floods of September 1992 that produced much loss of life and material damage in France and Italy, they hasten to add that the more recent "damage suffered and a perception [our italics] of increasing vulnerability is something very much alive in public opinion and in economic balance sheets." Hence, it is relatively easy for climate alarmists to claim that flooding in the region has been exacerbated by global warming, when in reality just the opposite would appear to be the case.

Reviewed 20 December 2006