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While the effects of past industrial pollution on the chemistry and biology of Lake Orta have been well documented, annual and seasonal fluctuations of lake levels have not yet been studied. Considering their potential impacts on both the ecosystem and on human safety, fluctuations in lake levels are an important aspect of limnological research. In the enormous catchment of Lake Maggiore, there are many rivers and lakes, and the amount of annual precipitation is both high and concentrated in spring and autumn. This has produced major flood events, most recently in November 2014. Flood events are also frequent on Lake Orta, occurring roughly triennially since 1917. The 1926, 1951, 1976 and 2014 floods were severe, with lake levels raised from 2.30 m to 3.46 m above the hydrometric zero. The most important event occurred in 1976, with a maximum level equal to 292.31 m asl and a return period of 147 years. In 2014 the lake level reached 291.89 m asl and its return period was 54 years. In this study, we defined trends and temporal fluctuations in Lake Orta water levels from 1917 to 2014, focusing on extremes. We report both annual maximum and seasonal variations of the lake water levels over this period. Both Mann-Kendall trend tests and simple linear regression were utilized to detect monotonic trends in annual and seasonal extremes, and logistic regression was used to detect trends in the number of flood events. Lake level decreased during winter and summer seasons, and a small but statistically non-significant positive trend was found in the number of flood events over the period. We provide estimations of return period for lake levels, a metric which could be used in planning lake flood protection measures.
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