Guest Essay by Kip Hansen
Paris, France is flooding again. The River Seine has risen over its banks and streets are covered with slowing moving yellowish water. The Louvre is building sandbag barriers to protect its statuary.
There is talk, as always, that the culprit is the dreaded modern boogeyman — Climate Change.
As our introductory image states, Paris is not just flooding, it is flooding again, and again, and again, and again.
“Why does the Seine, famous for its bridges, flood at all?
As one of France’s major commercial waterways, the river is closely monitored so it can accommodate a constant procession of barges and other commercial vessels. The river begins in Burgundy, in east-central France, and meanders 485 miles westward until it reaches its mouth, near the port city of Le Havre.
Upstream from Paris, four large dams control the flow of the Seine and three of its major tributaries: the Aube, the Marne and the Yonne. According to Charles Perrin, a hydrologist at the National Research Institute of Science and Technology for Environment and Agriculture, in late spring the dams start stocking large reserves of water that can be released in the drier summer months.
Dams and locks normally keep the water level consistent, particularly in the Paris region, where the Seine’s traffic is especially heavy, in part because of tourist and other recreational vessels. If the water level drops too far, the barges could scrape the riverbed and get damaged. If it gets too high, vessels cannot pass under the city’s lowest bridges.”
Last spring “The dams were already at 95 percent capacity when heavy rains started in late May, so their ability to take in the excess water was limited.” So, Paris flooded — again.
“Public authorities said they expected the Seine to crest on Sunday at up to six meters, or about 19.6 feet. In the floods of June 2016, which killed four people in France, it peaked at 20 feet.”
“Although some experts said it was hard to determine whether global warming was behind the current flood, others warned that a worrying pattern was emerging.
“Because of climate change, we can expect floods in the Seine basin to be at least as frequent as they are right now,” said Florence Habets, a senior researcher at the C.N.R.S., France’s national center for scientific research. “No matter what we say, the more we reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, the more we reduce our impact on droughts and floods.”
The French scientist tells us that “Because of climate change…” the flooding frequency will remain the same. Brillant!
What is the flooding frequency? Every recent flood is compared to the great flood of 1910, “in 1910, a January deluge turned Paris into Venice for a week — river levels rose nearly 30 feet above normal — causing roughly $1.5 billion worth of damage, in today’s terms. … Topographically, Paris is a basin, with hills in Montmartre and Montparnasse rising in the north and south of the city, respectively. When it comes to flooding, that means big trouble for anyone who lives in the city center, which in 1910 was not so different than it is today” [source]. “A very severe period of high water in January 1910 resulted in extensive flooding throughout the city. The Seine again rose to threatening levels in 1924, 1955, 1982, 1999–2000, June 2016, and January 2018.” [source]
The New York Times carried the story of the 1910 Paris flood — read the full original report on the front page of January 27, 1920.
This “worrying pattern” really began in the 17th Century with major Paris floods being recorded in 1649, 1651, 1658, 1690, 1711, 1732, 1740, 1779, 1795, 1802, 1830, 1836, 1879-80, 1882-83, 1886…..you get the idea here.
What’s the deal here? Again, as with Bangladesh: GEOGRAPHY.
There we have it. Four rivers flow into one another and converge just before Paris: The Seine itself, the Aube, the Yonne, and the Marne.
Google Earth reveals that the Seine is no longer a river but a channeled and closely controlled canal, complete with flood control devices and locks for the river traffic.
We see once more that the efforts to control great rivers and put them solely to our own purposes leads to unforeseen, or at least, unacknowledged, problems. The upriver dams, used to store water against the dryer summers, to maintain river levels appropriate for shipping, are allowed to fill in the Spring, find themselves nearly full — and if late summer rains come, there is nowhere to store the resultant excessive river flow — floods start upstream and spread down the river to Paris. We see this same pattern with the great rivers of the American Midwest — the Mississippi and the Missouri.
Of course, the Europeans have known all about this situation for years and years, and publish reports and recommendations such as OECD Reviews of Risk Management “Policies Seine Basin, Île-de-France: Resilience to Major Floods”.
Still, Paris floods and the blame gets shifted to anything but the real cause — inadequate action to remedy the known problems of Seine River managenment.
Remember our expert Climate Science opinion: “Because of climate change, we can expect floods in the Seine basin to be at least as frequent as they are right now,”
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Love to read and respond to your on-topic comments.
Paris floods — that’s weather — so it must be Climate Change.
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