Flooding in Britain is being made worse and more frequent by climate change, warns a new study.
Rising temperatures are causing soil to become more humid as more rain falls between The Alps and Iceland, according to the research.
Meanwhile floods – which cause more than £80 billion of damage worldwide per year – are becoming rarer in southern and eastern areas as the land becomes parched due to rising temperatures and drier weather.
Flooding around small rivers can also increase due to more frequent thunderstorms and changes in land management such as deforestation, the study found.
The major international research project predicted floods in north western parts of the continent could increase between 11 and 23 percent per decade due to global warming.
The study, led by the Vienna University of Technology in Austria, looked at flood data from 3,738 flood monitoring stations throughout Europe from 1960 to 2010.
A total of 35 European research groups evaluated data to back up suspicions that climate change was altering the frequency and strength of floods.
Study leader Professor Günter Blöschl, of the Vienna University of Technology, said: “It has long been suspected that climate change has an impact on the extent of flooding, as a warmer atmosphere can store more water. But that is not the only effect, flood changes are more complicated.
“Regardless of the necessary efforts of climate change mitigation, we will see the effects of these changes in the next decades. Flood management must adapt to these new realities.”
The study found in the more continental climate of Eastern Europe, flooding levels are also decreasing due to less snow in winter.
Prof Blöschl said: “There are clear flood risk patterns across Europe that match the projected impacts of climate change.”
Fellow researcher Professor Bruno Merz, head of the Hydrology Section at GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences, added: “Two years ago, we were able to show that temporal patterns are changing.
“Now, together with international colleagues, we have demonstrated that the severity of events is also influenced by climate change.”
The findings, which prove climate change has been affecting the magnitude and frequency of flood events in Europe, were published in the journal Nature.