Ouranos is a nonprofit consortium on regional climatology and adaptation to climate change based in Montreal, Canada. The organization’s scientific research programming focuses on twelve themes, including the Energy sector. Coming to the end of a five-year cycle, the Energy Program is currently reviewing its achievements with respect to the objectives set in 2014. With the development of 18 projects, what are the lessons learned and the challenges going forward? What is the right recipe to start a relevant, applied and collaborative project and how can the research help strengthen the energy sector’s resilience to climate change? To answer these questions, the presentation will focus on an example of a project from this program: “The impact of climate change on the Probable Maximum Flood (PMF) over Canadian basins.” This example will help illustrate the important aspects to consider to ensure that useful climate services are provided throughout the project, from the development of the proposal, through the definition of the methodology and leading to the main results. Some results of the project itself will also be discussed.
In Canada, dams classified in the “extreme hazard” category must meet strict design requirements regarding the maximum flow the infrastructure must handle based on the concept of the PMF. There is no widely accepted method to either integrate the effect of a non-stationary climate in the determination of PMF magnitudes or to incorporate resulting adaptation changes into the design, operation, or maintenance of hydropower facilities. Private and state-owned hydroelectric production companies along with government representatives and researchers from academic institutions collaborated with the Ouranos Consortium to develop a robust method to evaluate future PMF values under climate change. This study considers multiple rainfall storm sizes and basins with different characteristics across Canada. The analysis covers some of the uncertainties related to climate model representation and natural climate variability, by using an ensemble of simulations from the North American Regional Climate Change Assessment Program (NARCCAP) and from multi-member Canadian regional Climate Model (CRCM4) simulations produced at Ouranos.
The future spring PMF is projected to increase with median values between -1.5% and 20%. For the five Canadian basins studied, the projected changes in PMFs were all deemed manageable by the hydropower utilities given the existing infrastructures and current operating rules.