a coastal village in Majorca

Coastal flooding in the Balearics

In Insurance, Insurance News, News by Stephanie Brain

Coastal flooding in the Balearic Islands

As part of our Spanish flooding data, Ambiental possesses a unique dataset for flood risk in the Balearic Islands. Threatened by risks of flash and permanent flooding, the archipelago is particularly vulnerable to flood events. Until now there has been a lack of flooding data available for this part of the Spanish territory.

Why are the Balearics one of the most vulnerable areas to flooding of the Spanish territories?

The Balearics' vulnerabilities stem from their typology. As an archipelago made up of five islands; Majorca, Menorca, Ibiza, Formentera, Cabrera, the Balearics is especially threatened by the sea-level rise due to climate change. They are vulnerable not only to flash flooding, but also to permanent flooding of a part of their territory, notably the beaches that are attractive to tourists.

Due to their main economic activity being  tourism, the Balearics has a large concentration of high-value residential  properties, which present significant exposures to risk for insurers when flooding occurs. Furthermore, the archipelago is detached from central governance, which means there are limited resources available to prepare for flood events.

As their economy was developing, little consideration was given to the impact of sea-level rise, as coastlines are highly urbanised. The last few years have witnessed a large increase of the population of the Balearics, boosting the potential number of victims and the damages, as infrastructure are built to accommodate this increase.


Balearic Islands

The most affected island of the archipelago is Majorca, followed by Eivissa, then Menorca and Formentera.

Majorca’s geographical complexity with mountainous areas and plains presents a great risk. In Majorca, three cities have torrents inside the city centre, making those city centres, particularly at risk. Numerous villages also have streams close to their centre.

In Menorca and Ibiza, flood events are particularly impacting farming areas. Furthermore, the use of flood-prone coastal zones and torrent’s mouth for tourism-related building and infrastructure renders the island vulnerable to permanent flooding of beaches areas and flash flooding in valleys.

This has traditionally presented challenges in the absence of detailed hazard data to put a price on the risk of flooding in the Balearics. Hence, Ambiental’s unique data set for the Balearics provide an understanding of the risk of flooding in the archipelago.

What can be done to tackle those vulnerabilities?

A coastal village in MajorcaA coastal village in Majorca

Floods are often local phenomena, affecting specific catchments and basins, not the whole island. The archipelago is at risk of flash floods with intense precipitations. Despite those vulnerabilities, flood events were underappreciated in the Balearics, with little research and data about the risk of flooding.

The archipelago has suffered from flooding in recent years, with the most extreme flood event occurring in 2018 in Majorca. The event led to the death of 13 people and shifted the attitude towards flood risk in the Balearics. More recently, in September 2021, storms caused severe floods, flooding houses, streets, roads, businesses.

Following that event, the Spanish government implemented measures to combat the effects of flooding in the Balearics, yet still they remain incredibly vulnerable to any increase in precipitations. The need for analytical tools and data to prepare for an increase in flooding is critical.

Built at high resolution (5m), Ambiental’s maps offer a complete, and consistent view of flood risk for large areas as well as property level analysis. They predict pluvial, fluvial, and tidal flood sources. Our Climate Suite data products offer customers long-term risk insights and decision-making capabilities which consider the impact of increasing atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases and a warming planet under a range of scenarios and timeframes. Ambiental’s  FloodSore Climate database assesses the likelihood and severity of an individual property being flooded now and in the future and it is aligned with reporting requirements across a range of industries (including the Climate Biennial Exploratory Scenario (CBES) initiative for declaring financial risks).


Climate change and the risk of flooding

Climate change will impact the Balearics, as the five islands are at increasing risk of permanent loss of land. It is expected to cause widespread ecological and economic impacts, especially in the urban and densely populated areas of the islands. Additionally, climate change could increase the intensity of waves and storm surges, causing severe economic impact and the loss of tourist areas.

The loss of tourist recreational services represents a GDP loss up to 7.2% with respect to the 2019 GDP. Up to 65% of the beach area in the Balearic Islands will be permanently lost due to the climate crisis. During storms conditions, up to 80% of beaches could be lost.

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Validemossa, Majorca, one of the towns that suffered severe flooding in September 2021

Climate change and the risk of flooding

Climate change will impact the Balearics, as the five islands are at increasing risk of permanent loss of land. It is expected to cause widespread ecological and economic impacts, especially in the urban and densely populated areas of the islands. Additionally, climate change could increase the intensity of waves and storm surges, causing severe economic impact and the loss of tourist areas.

The loss of tourist recreational services represents a GDP loss up to 7.2% with respect to the 2019 GDP. Up to 65% of the beach area in the Balearic Islands will be permanently lost due to the climate crisis. During storms conditions, up to 80% of beaches could be lost.

Understanding the risk of flooding in the Balearics is essential for insurers, mortgage lenders, property professionals and data providers, and local government representatives, to understand and reduce the risk of floods. Ambiental’s products and services provide essential technological solutions for predicting and understanding the risk of flooding in the Balearics. 


Contact Ted Bartholomeusz for more information about these new opportunities to understand the range of risks faced by Spain and the Balearics, and other countries globally.
E: ted.bartholomeusz@rhdhv.com
T: +44 (0)1273 006904

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