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In September 2014, the Kashmir valley (north-west India) experienced a massive flood causing significant economic losses and fatalities. This disaster underlined the high vulnerability of the local population and raised questions regarding the resilience of Kashmiris to future floods. Although the magnitude of the 2014 flood has been considered unprecedented within the context of existing measurements, we argue that the short flow series may lead to spurious misinterpretation of the probability of such extreme events. Here we use a millennium-long record of past floods in Kashmir based on historical and tree-ring records to assess the probability of 2014-like flood events in the region. Our flood chronology (635 CE-nowadays) provides key insights into the recurrence of flood disasters and propels understanding of flood variability in this region over the last millennium, showing enhanced activity during the Little Ice Age. We find that high-impact floods have frequently disrupted the Kashmir valley in the past. Thus, the inclusion of historical records reveals large flood hazard levels in the region. The newly gained information also underlines the critical need to take immediate action in the region, so as to reduce the exposure of local populations and to increase their resilience, despite existing constraints in watershed management related to the Indus Water Treaty.
This article was published in the following journal.
Name: The Science of the total environment
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