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Highlight June 2013 - Severe floods in Europe

An exceptionally wet May followed by several days of intense rainfall in June led to severe flooding in Central and Eastern Europe, in particular Germany, Austria and the Czech Republic, with the Danube and the Elbe swelling to near 100-year highs. High water levels were also reported in the Rhine. Up to 21 deaths were reported as a result of these floods, with thousands of residents being evacuated. Northern Spain and southwestern France were also hit by heavy rains towards the middle of June. These led to flash floods that killed three people, with hundreds evacuated from their homes. The IES contributed to the crisis management activities by monitoring and reporting on the current flood situation through the European Flood Awareness System (EFAS).

EFAS was developed by the IES and other research institutes following the extreme flood events of 2002. EFAS, which is now part of the initial operations of the Copernicus Emergency Management Service (EMS), provided the relevant national authorities and the European Commission's Emergency Response Centre (ERC) with EFAS information several days in advance. The JRC also provides the ERC with daily situation reports on the flood crises as they develop, integrating scientific information with impact information into products tailored for civil protection, thereby helping the authorities to coordinate action within the EU to mitigate potential damages across borders.

On the 2nd of June, the German Federal civil protection authorities were the first to trigger the mapping service of the EMS via the ERC in order to obtain flood extent maps of the affected areas in the Danube region. Requests for this service were made by the Czech Republic and Hungary in the following days, and later again by Germany for the Elbe region. Reference maps and flood extent maps delivered by the EMS are available at

Early flood warning systems are an important tool to help reduce the impacts of floods. EFAS flood forecasts are generated by coupling a spatially distributed hydrological model of Europe with various medium-range weather forecasts from the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF), the German Weather Service, and the Consortium for Small-scale Modelling (COSMO).

EFAS provides national and regional hydrological services with early flood forecasting products, with a lead time of up to 10 days,  and the ERC with a unique overview of ongoing and forecast floods in Europe. Co-funded by DGECHO and part of the initial operations of the Copernicus EMS, EFAS is run operationally  by several consortia: the EFAS computations and web services are executed and hosted by the ECMWF (UK); the analysis of EFAS forecasts and the dissemination of EFAS flood alerts are carried out by the Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute (SE), Rijkswaterstaat (NL) and Slovak Hydro-Meteorological Institute (SK), and the hydrological data in collected by the Andalusian Regional Ministry of Agriculture, Fishing and Environment (ES) and the private company ELIMCO (ES). The overall project management, meteorological data collection, and further scientific development of the system are led by the IES.

Further information

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