Extreme floods of Venice: characteristics, dynamics, past and future evolution (review article)

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Floods in the Venice city centre result from the superposition of several factors: astronomical tides; seiches; and atmospherically forced fluctuations, which include storm surges, meteotsunamis, and surges caused by atmospheric planetary waves. All these factors can contribute to positive water height anomalies individually and can increase the probability of extreme events when they act constructively. The largest extreme water heights are mostly caused by the storm surges produced by the sirocco winds, leading to a characteristic seasonal cycle, with the largest and most frequent events occurring from November to March. Storm surges can be produced by cyclones whose centres are located either north or south of the Alps. Historically, the most intense events have been produced by cyclogenesis in the western Mediterranean, to the west of the main cyclogenetic area of the Mediterranean region in the Gulf of Genoa. Only a small fraction of the inter-annual variability in extreme water heights is described by fluctuations in the dominant patterns of atmospheric circulation variability over the Euro-Atlantic sector. Therefore, decadal fluctuations in water height extremes remain largely unexplained. In particular, the effect of the 11-year solar cycle does not appear to be steadily present if more than 100 years of observations are considered. The historic increase in the frequency of floods since the mid19th century is explained by relative mean sea level rise. Analogously, future regional relative mean sea level rise will be the most important driver of increasing duration and intensity of Venice floods through this century, overcompensating for the small projected decrease in marine storminess. The future increase in extreme water heights covers a wide range, largely reflecting the highly uncertain mass contributions to future mean sea level rise from the melting of Antarctica and Greenland ice sheets, especially towards the end of the century. For a high-emission scenario (RCP8.5), the magnitude of 1-in-100-year water height values at the northern Adriatic coast is projected to increase by 26–35 cm by 2050 and by 53–171 cm by 2100 with respect to the present value and is subject to continued increase thereafter. For a moderateemission scenario (RCP4.5), these values are 12–17 cm by 2050 and 24–56 cm by 2100. Local subsidence (which is not included in these estimates) will further contribute to the future increase in extreme water heights. This analysis shows the need for adaptive long-term planning of coastal defences using flexible solutions that are appropriate across the large range of plausible future water height extremes.
© Author(s) 2021. Scientific activity by Davide Zanchettin and Georg Umgiesser was performed in the research programme Venezia2021, with the contribution of the superintendency for the Public Works of Veneto, Trentino Alto Adige, and Friuli Venezia Giulia, provided through the concessionary of State Consorzio Venezia Nuova and coordinated by CORILA. Marco Reale has been supported in this work by the OGS and Cineca under HPC-TRES award number 2015- 07 and by the project FAIRSEA (Fisheries in the Adriatic Region – a Shared Ecosystem Approach) funded by the 2014–2020 Interreg V-A Italy–Croatia CBC programme (standard project ID 10046951). The work of Mirko Orlic has been supported by the ´ Croatian Science Foundation under the project IP-2018-01-9849 (MAUD). David Barriopedro was supported by the Spanish government through the PALEOSTRAT (CGL2015-69699-R) and JEDiS (RTI2018-096402-BI00) projects.