Document Type


Journal/Book Title/Conference

Journal of Climate


American Meteorological Society

Publication Date



Severe flooding occurred in Thailand during the 2011 summer season, which resulted in more than 800 deaths and affected 13.6 million people. The unprecedented nature of this flood in the Chao Phraya River basin (CPRB) was examined and compared with historical flood years. Climate diagnostics were conducted to understand the meteorological conditions and climate forcing that led to the magnitude and duration of this flood. Neither the monsoon rainfall nor the tropical cyclone frequency anomalies alone was sufficient to cause the 2011 flooding event. Instead, a series of abnormal conditions collectively contributed to the intensity of the 2011 flood: anomalously high rainfall in the premonsoon season, especially during March; record-high soil moisture content throughout the year; elevated sea level height in the Gulf of Thailand, which constrained drainage; and other water management factors. In the context of climate change, the substantially increased premonsoon rainfall in CPRB after 1980 and the continual sea level rise in the river outlet have both played a role. The rainfall increase is associated with a strengthening of the premonsoon northeasterly winds that come from East Asia. Attribution analysis using phase 5 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project historical experiments pointed to anthropogenic greenhouse gases as the main external climate forcing leading to the rainfall increase. Together, these findings suggest increasing odds for potential flooding of similar intensity to that of the 2011 flood.

Included in

Climate Commons