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Every year, Europe is affected by extremely strong surface wind speeds caused by powerful cyclones. These wind speeds are typically clustered in the vicinity of the cyclones, and are known as windstorms. Windstorms are strong enough to threaten the infrastructure of even the most developed European cities, ripping off parts of houses, felling trees, and causing disruption on roads and railways. Over half of insured losses related to natural catastrophes in Europe (from 1980-2013) can be attributed to these storms, making them the most impactful hazard in the region. This image shows a series of windstorms which all formed over the Atlantic Ocean, indicated by the red crosses, in the winters of 1979-2011. This aptly-named “spaghetti plot” depicts their trajectories in green, and shows many storms crossing over Central and Northern Europe. Note that many of the red crosses are located further West over the Atlantic Ocean, which is the basis of this research project. It is hypothesized that a significant portion of these windstorms are aided by strong sea-surface temperature gradients in the West- and Mid-Atlantic Ocean, as they can provide the potential energy necessary for storm systems to explode into devastating cyclones. The aim of the project is to identify the role these gradients play (compared to other atmospheric drivers) in the variability of windstorms which reach Europe every year.
In the wake of changing hydro-climatological, geo-physical and socio-economic conditions the magnitude, frequency and impact of certain types of natural hazards are likely bound to change as well. This is highly of utmost importance for many regions in the world where risks due to natural hazards have to be managed and mitigated and this is where the research training group “Natural hazards and risks in a changing world (NatRiskChange)” aims to foster the scientific knowledge basis. This research training group started on October 1st 2015 and is funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft DFG. The central goal of NatRiskChange is to pursue the development of methods to improve hazard and risk analysis and quantification based on the transient, non-stationary nature of hazards and risks in response to changing natural and anthropogenically altered components of the Earth system. Key scientific aims are the development, testing, and pilot application of studies on identification, quantification (mechanisms) and prediction of transient natural hazards and associated risks.
Within NatRiskChange, a telephone aided survey was conducted in October and November 2017 among companies, which were affected from heavy rainfall or flash flood events in 2014 to 2016. We aim at gathering information about the companies experiences with severe weather warning systems, the type and extent of the damage as well es the state of recovery. Results shall identify improved mitigation measures for the management of eavy rainfall events. We thank all participants of the survey for their support!