Half a million Danish buildings are susceptible to flooding

Over 468,000 buildings close to Denmark’s rivers and coasts and in low-lying areas are at risk of being flooded by a major weather event.

Half a million Danish buildings are susceptible to flooding
Flooding at Jyllinge Nordmark on January 2nd. Photo: Mads Claus Rasmussen / Ritzau Scanpix

The many buildings are considered to be at risk from a so-called ‘100-year (weather) event’ or by storm surges, caused by high winds pushing water from the sea onto land.

An analysis by Regional authorities and Scalgo, a specialist in 3D mapping, has plotted out the risk, Jyllands-Posten reports.

The analysis is intended to show what would happen if storms pushed Denmark’s water levels up by two metres from their normal height.

Such a situation could result in the flooding of 10,664 buildings along rivers, 393,574 buildings in low-lying areas and 64,000 buildings along coasts.

The buildings would not necessarily all flood at once, but are all located in areas st risk.

Measures must be taken to protect areas from flooding, Danish Regions said in response to the analysis.

“This analysis makes clear in no uncertain terms the size of the challenge we are facing,” Heino Knudsen, chairperson of the Region Zealand council and head of its environmental committee, told Ritzau.

“It is also a challenge the is continually growing given the climate changes we are seeing, so a new focus in this area is necessary,” Knudsen said.

Given that rivers run through several municipalities, Regions – which have jurisdiction over larger areas than local councils – would be better equipped to manage protection measures, the Regional council chair said.

Denmark's 98 municipalities exist to provide administration for much of the country's welfare and social needs, while the 5 regions are primarily concerned with administration of health care.

“We suggest the law is changed so that Regions are given responsibility along with municipalities for developing regional climate adaptation plans,” Knudsen said.

Zenia Stampe, spokesperson on the environment with the Social Liberal party, said that the analysis demonstrates the need for a plan for climate change impact in Denmark, and that Regions could play a role in that.

“There are a lot of actors involved here and we certainly need to discuss where responsibility will lie,” Stampe said.

The Regions are this month scheduled to present a plan for altered areas of responsibility to environment minister Lea Wermelin.

READ ALSO: Denmark needs green tax reform to meet climate goal: party

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Why white Christmases are becoming rare in Denmark

The chance of seeing a snow-covered Denmark at Christmas is slim, not just this year but for many to come, according to meteorologists.

Why white Christmases are becoming rare in Denmark
Aalborg on December 26th, 2011. Photo: Henning Bagger/Ritzau Scanpix

The Danish Meteorological Institute (DMI) has updated its prognoses for the country’s climate for the rest of this century.

A general temperature increase of 3.5 degrees Celsius is predicted if CO2 emissions remain at current levels.

That will result in fewer sub-zero days during the winter. The current average of 80 days each year with sub-zero temperatures will fall to 30 days, according to senior DMI climate researcher Rasmus Anker Pedersen.

“The probability of snowfall will be reduced, as will the probability that the snow will settle when it falls. So overall, white Christmases will become even more seldom,” Pedersen said.

“When frost disappears it also means that the season in which you can expect to be able to grow crops will be significantly longer. At the moment it’s 8 months, but it could increase to 11 months,” he added.

The warmest summer days will increase from 29 degrees to 33 degrees, according to the DMI long term prognosis. Heat waves will become more commonplace and summer rainfall will be more likely to take the form of thunderstorms.

“We are looking at a marked increase in heavy rainfall and up to 70 percent more downpours. That could mean that rain will not be taken up by the soil in the same way as if it rains more evenly,” Pedersen said.

Major floods, which currently occur around once every two decades, could become as frequent as biannual occurrences, according to DMI.

The meteorological prognoses can be used as a resource by local authorities that need to account for climate changes in city development plans.

“But it could also be used as a motivation to reduce CO2 admissions,” Pedersen said, noting that several scenarios using different projected CO2 admission levels had been mapped out by the agency.

READ ALSO: Here’s how to check what your local weather in Denmark could be like in 2100