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Floods in Germany: Map shows where the water levels are currently highest

floods in germany

Recent floods in Germany affected many parts. An official map shows where the water levels are particularly high.

Ruhr, Moselle and Rhine – after historical water levels on many rivers in west and southwest Germany , the flood situation remained tense on Thursday. The water levels of many smaller rivers in the affected regions were also well above their normal level. 

The high water portal of the federal states provides up-to-date information on where the water levels are particularly high. There is also information about where there is a risk situation. 

Map showing where the flood in Germany were severe

The darker a point, the more critical the flood situation. The screenshot was updated on Friday, July 17, 2021, 08:17 p.m. 
An interactive version is available at hochwasserzentralen.de


The Hochwasser portal is operated jointly by all federal states, which continuously provide current data and further information for the offer. 

According to the information, further level data are provided by the Federal Waterways and Shipping Administration (WSV) and the competent authorities of the neighboring countries. The flood situations are divided into different classifications. 

Floods in Germany did not only occur in “risk areas”

The low “Bernd” caused a record flood in large parts of Germany. Parts of Rhineland-Palatinate and North Rhine-Westphalia were particularly hard hit by the storms and flash floods. Regions that for the most part are not considered flood risk areas – and therefore were not adequately prepared for the volume of water.

Definition for flood risk areas in Germany and Europe are outdated

The considerable flood damage occurs more and more frequently in areas that are not floodplains by definition, according to the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety on its website. This is because, according to the EU flood risk management guidelines, floods are only expected in these areas less than once in 100 years.

In recent years, however, climate change has favored extreme weather events everywhere in Germany. For most municipalities, however, there are no special obligations for flood-adapted development, so that considerable damage can occur in the event of a flood. How such a flood risk actually changes depends on the conditions in the catchment area of ​​a river. It must therefore be examined separately for each river.

In regions that have often been affected by floods in the past decades, the water masses usually cause less damage, writes the Federal Environment Agency. People are well prepared for the dangers and can counteract them with protective devices.

How did this extreme weather situation come about?

Two effects of global warming influence the frequency of such extreme heavy rain events:

  1. More water evaporates at higher temperatures and the warmer atmosphere can store more moisture. This favors high amounts of precipitation
  2. Weather conditions persist longer over a region. 

Behind this is a global phenomenon: the atmosphere does not heat up evenly, but more at the poles than at the equator. This reduces the large temperature difference between these two regions. 

The result: the so-called jet stream, which acts as a band of wind at great heights around the northern hemispherepulls, changes. This means that weather conditions can remain in one place for a long time and create extreme conditions . 

The problem is not the weather itself, but that it persists for a long time.

The greatest flood disasters in Germany of the past 100 years

North Sea floods – 1962
  • 1927 – Floods in the Eastern Ore Mountains: When there was heavy rainfall in July in the Eastern Ore Mountains, the two Elbe tributaries, Gottleuba and Müglitz, overflowed their banks. The masses of water surprised people in the villages while they were sleeping. 160 people lost their lives in this disaster.
  • 1954 – Danube floods: It had rained every day since June 27, 1954. With the turn of the month, the rains became heavier and reached flood rain levels. Around 9,000 people had to be evacuated and an area of ​​around 150,000 hectares was flooded. Twelve people lost their lives in this flood disaster.
  • 1962 – The worst storm surge in Hamburg: It is considered the worst storm surge in the city’s history and cost more than 300 people their lives: The storm surge of 1962 was triggered by the hurricane “Vincinette”. This had been raging in the North Sea for a few days earlier and was gradually pushing the water up the Elbe. When the first dike broke in Cuxhaven at around 10 p.m. on February 16, things went fast. Until the early morning hours the water masses had breached more than 50 dikes and flooded numerous parts of the city. The Elbe island Wilhelmsburg was hit the worst. The floods swept everything away including some houses and parts of the dykes. The catastrophe hits Hamburg unprepared at night. 315 people lost their lives, 207 of them in Wilhelmsburg alone.
  • 1993 floods on the Rhine and Moselle: Christmas literally fell into the water for people on the Rhine and Moselle in 1993. Above-average rainfall in the previous two months ensured that the Rhine and the tributaries Mosel, Nahe and Neckar swelled. A water level of 10.63 meters was measured in Cologne, which was just below the high of 1926. Since Cologne on the left bank of the Rhine was only protected up to a water level of ten meters, the old town and the southern part of the city were under water.
  • 2002 floods in Central Europe: High rainfall in August 2002 in eastern and northern Germany led to violent floods. The Elbe and Danube overflowed their banks. 21 people died in Germany. 43,000 people had to leave their residential areas. The amount of damage rose to nine billion euros. Deutsche Bahn alone reported damage amounting to 1.025 billion euros. Across Europe, the flood claimed 45 lives and caused damage of around 15 billion. (Source: wetter.de)
  • 2016 tidal wave hits the center of Braunsbach: A severe flood inundated the small community in the Schwäbisch Hall district that day and buried it under an avalanche of mud and rubble.



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