How susceptible is Luxembourg to flood risk, what extreme weather events have occurred in recent years, and how may climate change impact on the country?
As the country with the highest per-capita Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in the EU, Luxembourg’s flood-risk areas must be identified to adequately protect people, infrastructure and investments using high-detail flood maps and predictive flood risk data. The country has been historically susceptible to flooding but this risk is notably increasing due to climate change, suggesting that a fundamental increase in flood protection measures is required.
How susceptible is Luxembourg to flood risk?
Luxembourg has an increasing level of flood risk and is especially vulnerable during the winter seasons. The country has roughly 1,800km of waterways including many small rivers and four major rivers: the Alzette, the Sauer, the Moselle and the Meuse. Despite their small size, the small and low-water basins are subject to strong seasonal variations which can cause significant flooding. There is also substantial risk of flooding caused by snowmelt which primarily affects the north of Luxembourg and the Moselle. In fact, an estimated 14,577 people live in flood risk areas already and this figure is only predicted to increase in the future. There is also a significant proportion of GDP expected to be vulnerable to flood risk which is concerning from an investments perspective.
Ambiental’s FloodMap for Luxembourg encompasses highly detailed and accurate predictive data that enables clients to see how potential floods will develop. Flexible options are available and this service can be tailored to customer needs. This data enables clients to coordinate the best response to flood risks, ensuring they are prepared before flood events emerge.
Recent extreme weather events in Luxembourg
Extreme flooding across Western Europe in the summer of 2021 had devastating impacts on Luxembourg. A reported 106 litres per square metre of rain fell on the 14th of July 2021, a new national record since records began nearly 170 years ago. This heavy rainfall led to a surface runoff being formed which brought local flooding with it and caused river floods. The regions of Born, Steinheim, Rosport and Echternach were worst affected, and the Sauer River reached approximately 9.75 metres high on the 15th of July.
Source: YouTube, An American in Luxembourg: Luxembourg City Floods July 2021 (Part 2)
Despite citizens originally being warned to stay in their homes, hundreds of people were later evacuated in Echternach and other regions, with approximately 1,000 people being displaced in total. There were no reported injuries or fatalities, but the emergency services reportedly carried out over 1,200 weather-related interventions on the 15th of July alone. Additionally, there was significant material damage which was estimated to be around €125 million. ACA, the Luxembourg Insurance and Reinsurance Association, described it as the “most expensive disaster in the history of Luxembourg insurance.” Insurers have received claims for damage to 6,500 homes and 1,300 flooded vehicles, most of which are permanently damaged. Considering that climate change is likely to increase the risk of future flooding, greater flood protection measures are needed to avoid a substantial increase in the quantity and value of insurance claims following extreme weather events.
At-risk properties can be distinctly identified using flood risk technology. Ambiental’s FloodScore database provides flood risk scores down to the property level as well as flood risk information for properties across Luxembourg which can help inform insurers to better understand and accurately price that risk.
Historical flooding in Luxembourg
Flooding has historically impacted Luxembourg and the country has been hit by numerous floods in the winter. This includes flooding in 1983 on the Moselle and in 1993, 1995, 2003 and 2011 in the Sauer basin. Floods are therefore a frequent occurrence in the country, but the extent of the damage caused is growing substantially. For example, heavy rain led to floods in the South of Luxembourg in May – June 2016 and the north-east of the country in July 2016. The 2016 floods caused significant material damage which went into the hundreds of thousands. This was recognised as an “expensive year for insurance following floods”, indicating that the increasing frequency and intensity of flood risk is placing greater financial pressure on insurers.
Climate change and future of flooding in Luxembourg
Climate change is causing major redistributions of winter rainfall across Luxembourg which will increase the frequency of floods. Despite historical vulnerability to winter floods, the 2016 and 2021 extreme flooding events signify that the traditional weather patterns are changing. The frequency and length of dry periods are also expected to increase as climate change progresses. Additional factors to be aware of is the potential for the inadequate management of rivers, construction in flood-prone areas as well as a growing number of people and demand for homes.
Understanding how climate change may impact current and future flood risks is increasingly important as the risks increase in both magnitude and frequency. Ambiental’s FloodScore Climate Suite provides the data to understand long-term risk and is used by banks, investors, and lenders to identify sensitivity to change and deliver on reporting requirements. This data is comprehensive and accurate, focusing not only on flood risk analytics but also on physical risks and transition risks.
Luxembourg has historically been vulnerable to flooding, but that risk is only intensifying as climate change redistributes the traditional winter rainfall, placing more people, properties and investments at risk of flooding. Ambiental offers a range of services including Luxembourg’s FloodMap, FloodScore and Climate Suite which can provide the necessary data to better understand climate and flood risk across the country.
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