18 Feb 2022
18 Feb 2022

More than heavy rain turning into fast-flowing water – a landscape perspective on the 2021 Eifel floods

Michael Dietze1, Rainer Bell2, Ugur Ozturk3,4, Kristen L. Cook1,4, Christoff Andermann1, Alexander R. Beer5, Bodo Damm6, Ana Lucia5, Felix S. Fauer7, Katrin M. Nissen7, Tobias Sieg3, and Annegret H. Thieken3 Michael Dietze et al.
  • 1GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences, Section 4.6 Geomorphology, Telegrafenberg F427, D-14473 Potsdam, Germany
  • 2University of Bonn, Department of Geography, Meckenheimer Allee 166, D-53115 Bonn, Germany
  • 3University of Potsdam, Institute of Environmental Science and Geography, Karl-Liebknecht-Str. 24-25, D-14476 Potsdam, Germany
  • 4GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences, Section 2.6 Seismic Hazard and Risk Dynamics, Telegrafenberg F427, D-14473 Potsdam, Germany
  • 5University of Tübingen, Department of Geosciences, Schnarrenbergstr. 94-96, D-72076 Tübingen
  • 6University of Vechta, Department II - Applied Physical Geography, Universitätsstraße 5, D-49377 Vechta
  • 7Freie Universität Berlin, Institute of Meteorology, Carl-Heinrich-Becker Weg 6-10, D-12165 Berlin

Abstract. Rapidly evolving floods are rare but powerful drivers of landscape reorganisation that have severe and long lasting impacts on both the functions of a landscape’s subsystems and the affected society. The July 2021 flood that particularly hit several river catchments of the Eifel region in West Germany and Belgium was a drastic example. While media and scientists highlighted the meteorological and hydrological aspects of this flood, it was not just the rising water levels in the main valleys that posed a hazard, caused damage, and drove environmental reorganisation. Instead, the concurrent coupling of landscape elements and the wood, sediment and debris carried by the fast-flowing water made this flood so devastating and difficult to predict. Because more intense floods are able to interact with more landscape components, they at times reveal rare non-linear feedbacks, which may be hidden during smaller events due to their high thresholds of initiation. Here, we briefly review the boundary conditions of the 14–15 July 2021 flood and discuss the emerging features that made this event different from previous floods. We identify hillslope processes, aspects of debris mobilisation, the legacy of sustained human land use, and emerging process connections and feedbacks as critical non-hydrological dimensions of the flood. With this landscape scale perspective, we develop requirements for improved future event anticipation, mitigation and fundamental system understanding.

Michael Dietze et al.

Status: final response (author comments only)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on egusphere-2022-7', Anonymous Referee #1, 28 Feb 2022
  • RC2: 'Comment on egusphere-2022-7', Anonymous Referee #2, 09 Mar 2022
  • RC3: 'Comment on egusphere-2022-7', Anonymous Referee #3, 23 Mar 2022

Michael Dietze et al.

Michael Dietze et al.


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Short summary
The flood that hit Europe in July 2021, specifically the Eifel, Germany, was more than a lot of fast flowing water. The heavy rain that fell during the three days before also caused slope to fail, recruited tree trunks that clogged bridges and routed debris across the landscape. Especially in the upper parts of the catchments was the flood able to gain its momentum. Here, we discuss how different landscape elements interacted and highlight the challenges of holistic future flood anticipation.