Original paper

Hydrological Extreme events in historic and prehistoric times

Gregory, Kenneth J.; Herget, Jürgen; Benito, Gerardo


The assessment of the widest possible range of potential risks of low-probability hydrological events is critical for sustainable adaptation to climate change. In this context, palaeohydrology and palaeoflood hydrology have demonstrated effective means to estimate the magnitude and frequency of past extremes under climate variability, as well as deterministic and probabilistic methodologies to analyse geophysical hazards. These past hydrological events may not give direct analogues for global change impacts, but many useful indicators and considerable benefits can be gained from combining research results from time periods greater than instrumented records. Three phases of palaeohydrology are proposed and a fourth phase could see significant developments using multidisciplinary research. A preliminary SWOT analysis for palaeohydrology demonstrates the importance of multidisciplinary collaboration, suggests the benefits of geomorphological research, and leads to challenges for further application of research results to management problems benefitting from a holistic approach. The nine papers in this volume, demonstrating how a range of approaches is required, are ascribed to four timescales. Although advances made have been produced in relation to particular timescales they have implications for others, and collectively they progress our understanding of hydrological extreme events research, showing that bridging timescales gives a major opportunity for palaeohydrology to contribute further to understanding global change.


global changeenvironmental reconstructionextreme eventspalaeohydrologyhydrology