Use of systematic, palaeoflood and historical data for the improvement of flood risk estimation. Review of scientific method

Garardo Benito*, Michel Lang, Mariano Barriendos, M. Carmen Llasat, Felix Francés, Taha Ouarda, Varyl R. Thorndycraft, Yehouda Enzel, Andras Bardossy, Denis Coeur, Bernard Bobée

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

273 Scopus citations


The catastrophic floods recently occurring in Europe warm of the critical need for hydrologic data on floods over long-time scales. Palaeoflood techniques provide information on hydrologic variability and extreme floods over long-time intervals (100 to 10,000 yr) and may be used in combination with historical flood data (last 1,000 yr) and the gauge record (last 30-50 yr). In this paper, advantages and uncertainties related to the reconstruction of palaeofloods in different geomorphological settings and historical floods using different documentary sources are described. Systematic and non-systematic data can be combined in the flood frequency analysis using different methods for the adjustment of distribution functions. Technical tools integrating multidisciplinary approaches (geologic, historical, hydraulic and statistical) on extreme flood risk assessment are discussed. A discussion on the potential theoretical bases for solving the problem of dealing with non-systematic and non-stationary data is presented. This methodology is being developed using new methodological approaches applied to European countries as a part of a European Commission funded project (SPHERE).

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)623-643
Number of pages21
JournalNatural Hazards
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2004

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by the Spanish Committee for Science and Technology (CICYT) grant HID99-0858, FEDER Project 1FD97-2110-CO2-02, REN-2001-1633 and by the European Commission (DG XII), through research contract number EVG1-CT-1999-00010 (Systematic, Palaeoflood and Historical data for the improvement of flood Risk Estimation, “SPHERE” Project). SPHERE Project Web page


  • Europe
  • Flood frequency analysis
  • Historical floods
  • Hydrometeorological hazards
  • Palaeofloods


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