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Climate change and rainfall intensity-duration-frequency curves: Overview of science and guidelines for adaptation


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Martel, Jean-Luc, Brissette, Francois P., Lucas-Picher, Philippe, Troin, Magali et Arsenault, Richard. 2021. « Climate change and rainfall intensity-duration-frequency curves: Overview of science and guidelines for adaptation ». Journal of Hydrologic Engineering, vol. 26, nº 10.

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One of the most important impacts of a future warmer climate is the projected increase in the frequency and intensity of extreme rainfall events. This increasing trend in extreme rainfall is seen in both the observational record and climate model projections. However, a thorough review of the recent scientific literature paints a complex picture in which the intensification of rainfall extremes depends on a multitude of factors. While some projected rainfall indices follow the Clausius-Clapeyron relationship scaling of an ∼7% increase in rainfall per 1°C of warming, there is substantial evidence that this scaling depends on rainfall extremes frequency, with longer return period events seeing larger increases, leading to super Clausius-Clapeyron scaling in some cases. The intensification of extreme rainfall events is now well documented at the daily scale but is less clear at the subdaily scale. In recent years, climate model simulations at a finer spatial and temporal resolution, including convection-permitting models, have provided more reliable projections of subdaily rainfall. Recent analyses indicate that rainfall scaling may also increase as a function of duration, such that shorter-duration, longer return period events will likely see the largest rainfall increases in a warmer climate. This has broad implications on the design and the use of rainfall intensity–duration–frequency (IDF) curves, for which both an overall increase in magnitude and a steepening can now be predicted. This paper also presents an overview of measures that have been adopted by various governing bodies to adapt IDF curves to the changing climate. Current measures vary from multiplying historical design rainfall by a simple constant percentage to modulating correction factors based on return periods and to scaling them to the Clausius-Clapeyron relationship based on projected temperature increases. All of these current measures fail to recognize a possible super Clausius-Clapeyron scaling of extreme rainfall and, perhaps more importantly, the increasing scaling toward shorter-duration rainfall and the most extreme rainfall events that will significantly impact stormwater runoff in cities and in small rural catchments. This paper discusses the remaining scientific gaps and offers technical recommendations for practi- tioners on how to adapt IDF curves to improve climate resilience

Item Type: Peer reviewed article published in a journal
Brissette, François
Arsenault, Richard
Affiliation: Génie de la construction, Génie de la construction
Date Deposited: 24 Aug 2021 13:33
Last Modified: 17 Dec 2021 16:54

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