Over the last 15 years, the Czech Republic has experienced more floods than in the whole of the 20th century. In 1997, flooding devastated parts of Moravia; five years later, the west of the country, including the capital Prague, were inundated. The country has also experienced a series of local flash floods which caused serious damage. Leading Czech climatologist Radim Tolasz says Czechs should brace themselves for more floods to come in what he calls central Europe’s wet period.
“The climate and weather conditions in central Europe are changing and in the Czech Republic, too. Since the end of the 20th century, since the 1990s, we have been observing a wet period in this part of the world. That’s the reality nowadays in the Czech Republic, and the results are apparent: today, we have big floods.”
You have warned against jumping to conclusions and linking frequent flooding to global climate change. But do you think that climate changes are so dramatically affecting the conditions here?
“Yes, I do think that’s the reality. The International Panel for Climate Change found that global temperatures rose by 1.7 degrees Celsius over the past 100 years. In Europe, the number is 1.2 degrees over the same period. Higher temperature means there is more energy in the atmosphere which results in extreme weather. That’s a physical fact which cannot be disputed.”
How can the country prepare for this? Some say we should build more dams to contain more water, others believe rivers should be less regulated and the water should be allowed to flood areas where it does not present any risk. What do you think?
“I think the answer is simple: adaptation. We should adapt in three ways. First, we need a better meteorological and hydrological forecast for more days ahead. In the Czech Hydro-meteorological Institute, meteorologists and hydrologists work in one building, in one room in fact. Our warning system is good but we need a better forecasting system.
“We also need better water management in the landscape; better agricultural and forest management. I’m not an expert on this but I think we have to consider this and change agricultural and forest management.
“And lastly, we sometimes hear about the need to construct new dams. I think we have enough reservoirs but what we lack is flood plains. These are areas in the landscape where water can flow during floods without causing damage. So we have to think about that, too.”