Climate change ‘means flooding for west Sweden’

Climate change will increase the risk of flooding in western Sweden, but householders in many other parts of Sweden will have less to worry about, according to new research.

Scientists at Swedish meteorological office SMHI warn that the western counties Värmland and Västra Götaland, which contains Gothenburg, face an increased risk of flooding. Professor Sten Bergström, who examined the issue for insurance company Länsförsäkringar, said that higher average temperatures would have complex effects on Sweden’s climate.

The rise in temperatures is expected to bring more rain and less snow. This would mean that spring floods caused by melting snow would be less common, while autumn rain could cause increased flooding over the coming decades.

“The risk of flooding will not increase everywhere. In Mälardalen (the area near Stockholm around Lake Mälaren) the situation will not become worse, and around Daläven (in central Sweden) it could even improve, as it is largely due to snow melting.”

The prospects for the area around Lake Vänern are most worrying, which already has problems with flooding. Bergström warns that these will become worse with climate change.

Insurance companies face new challenges in areas likely to be subject to increased flooding.

According to Torbjörn Olsson, Länsförsäkringar’s climate expert, it is in the industry’s interests to share its knowledge about the areas facing growing problems. He emphasized that local councils have a responsibility to take account of flooding risks when considering where to locate new developments.

“The desire for waterside properties means that people are building nearer and nearer to the water and that increases the risks,” he said.

“It is better if we can avoid damage in advance than for us to be compelled to raise premiums or cause hassle for people who end up with a house in the wrong place,” Olsson said.