EGU General Assembly 2020
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Unsolved problems in hydrology: societal responses to unprecedented events

Maria Rusca1,2, Giuliano Di Baldassarre1,2,3, and Gabriele Messori1,4
Maria Rusca et al.
  • 1Department of Earth Sciences, Air, Water and Landscape Science, Uppsala University, 75236 Uppsala, Sweden
  • 2Centre of Natural Hazards and Disaster Science, CNDS, 75236 Uppsala, Sweden;
  • 3Department of Integrated Water Systems and Governance, IHE Delft, 2611 AX Delft, The Netherlands;
  • 4Department of Meteorology and Bolin Centre for Climate Research, Stockholm University, 106 91 Stockholm, Sweden

Understanding how different societal groups respond to drought or flood events is one of the unsolved problems in hydrology (UPH), concerning the interfaces with society. More specifically, there is a need to decipher the relationship between potential impacts of unprecedented events, distribution of sociohydrological risk as well as future adaptation and recovery trajectories. In this presentation, we introduce a new analytical approach to answer the question of how contemporary societies might adapt to and recover from unprecedented drought and flood events in an inclusive and sustainable fashion. In doing so, this presentation deepens our understandings of the interface between hydrological extremes and society. Addressing this question requires creating new forms of knowledge that integrate analyses of the past, i.e. historical and political processes of risk and adaptation and the underlying power relations, with hydroclimatic projections of unprecedented events. We thus combine three aspects which have been studied individually, but never integrated: a. scenarios based on social science theories on disaster management; b. case studies of past hydroclimatic events which were unprecedented at the time of their occurrence; c. conceptual transfer across case studies - that is, learning something about potential future unprecedented events at one location by leveraging events which occurred elsewhere. Some of the scenarios developed may already be emerging in current times, whilst others are plausible hypotheses in humanity’s future space. This approach, at the nexus between social and hydrological sciences, has the concrete advantage of providing an impacts-focussed vision of future risk, beyond what is achievable within conventional disciplinary boundaries. 

How to cite: Rusca, M., Di Baldassarre, G., and Messori, G.: Unsolved problems in hydrology: societal responses to unprecedented events, EGU General Assembly 2020, Online, 4–8 May 2020, EGU2020-7431,, 2020


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