Estimation of extreme flash flood evolution in Barcelona County from 1351 to 2005
Every year, flash floods cause economic losses and major problems for undertaking daily activity in the Catalonia region (NE Spain). Sometimes catastrophic damage and casualties occur. When a long term analysis of floods is undertaken, a question arises regarding the changing role of the vulnerability and the hazard in risk evolution. This paper sets out to give some information to deal with this question, on the basis of analysis of all the floods that have occurred in Barcelona county (Catalonia) since the 14th century, as well as the flooded area, urban evolution, impacts and the weather conditions for any of most severe events. With this objective, the identification and classification of historical floods, and characterisation of flash-floods among these, have been undertaken. Besides this, the main meteorological factors associated with recent flash floods in this city and neighbouring regions are well-known. On the other hand, the identification of rainfall trends that could explain the historical evolution of flood hazard occurrence in this city has been analysed. Finally, identification of the influence of urban development on the vulnerability to floods has been carried out. Barcelona city has been selected thanks to its long continuous data series (daily rainfall data series, since 1854; one of the longest rainfall rate series of Europe, since 1921) and for the accurate historical archive information that is available (since the Roman Empire for the urban evolution). The evolution of flood occurrence shows the existence of oscillations in the earlier and later modern-age periods that can be attributed to climatic variability, evolution of the perception threshold and changes in vulnerability. A great increase of vulnerability can be assumed for the period 1850–1900. The analysis of the time evolution for the Barcelona rainfall series (1854–2000) shows that no trend exists, although, due to changes in urban planning, flash-floods impact has altered over this time. The number of catastrophic flash floods has diminished, although the extraordinary ones have increased.