188.8.131.52 Floods and droughts
Documented trends in floods show no evidence for a globally widespread change. Although Milly et al. (2002) identified an apparent increase in the frequency of ‘large’ floods (return period >100 years) across much of the globe from the analysis of data from large river basins, subsequent studies have provided less widespread evidence. Kundzewicz et al. (2005) found increases (in 27 cases) and decreases (in 31 cases) and no trend in the remaining 137 cases of the 195 catchments examined worldwide. Table 1.3 shows results of selected changes in runoff/streamflow, lake levels and floods/droughts. Other examples of changes in floods and droughts may be found in Table SM1.2.
Globally, very dry areas (Palmer Drought Severity Index, PDSI ² -3.0) have more than doubled since the 1970s due to a combination of ENSO events and surface warming, while very wet areas (PDSI ³ +3.0) declined by about 5%, with precipitation as the major contributing factor during the early 1980s and temperature more important thereafter (Dai et al., 2004). The areas of increasing wetness include the Northern Hemisphere high latitudes and equatorial regions. However, the use of PDSI is limited by its lack of effectiveness in tropical regions. Table 1.3 shows the trend in droughts in some regions. Documented trends in severe droughts and heavy rains (Trenberth et al., 2007, Section 3.8.2) show that hydrological conditions are becoming more intense in some regions, consistent with other findings (Huntington, 2006).