Changes in floodplain regimes over Canada due to climate change impacts: Observations from CMIP6 models

Sci Total Environ. 2021 Oct 20:792:148323. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2021.148323. Epub 2021 Jun 8.


With the recent Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 6 (CMIP6), water experts and flood modellers are curious to explore the efficacy of the new and upgraded climate models in representing flood inundation dynamics and how they will be impacted in the future by climate change. In this study, for the first time, we consider the latest group of General Circulation Models (GCMs) from CMIP6 to examine the probable changes in floodplain regimes over Canada. A set of 17 GCMs from Shared Socioeconomic Pathways (SSPs) 4.5 (medium forcing) and 8.5 (high end forcing) common to historical (1980 to 2019), near-future (2021 to 2060), and far-future (2061 to 2100) time-periods are selected. A comprehensive framework consisting of hydrodynamic flood modelling, and statistical experiments are put forward to derive high-resolution Canada-wide floodplain maps for 100 and 200-yr return periods. The changes in floodplain regimes for the future periods are analyzed over drainage basin scale in terms of (i) changes in flood inundation extents, (ii) changes in flood hazards (high and very-high classes), and (iii) changes in flood frequency. Our results show a significant rise (>30%) in flood inundation extents in the future periods; particularly intense over western and eastern regions. The flood hazards are expected to cover ~16% more geographical area of Canada. We also find that large areas in northern and western Canada and a few spots in the eastern parts of Canada will be getting flooded more frequently compared to the historical period. The observations derived from this study are vital for enhancing flood preparedness, optimal land-use planning, and refurbishing both structural and non-structural flood control options for improved resilience. The study instills new knowledge on revamping the existing flood management approaches and adaptation strategies for future protection.

Keywords: CMIP6; Flood hazards; Flood risk management; Floodplain regimes; Shared Socioeconomic Pathways.

MeSH terms

  • Climate Change*
  • Environment
  • Floods*
  • Forecasting
  • Probability