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Discussion papers
https://doi.org/10.5194/esd-2019-56
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/esd-2019-56
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: research article 27 Sep 2019

Submitted as: research article | 27 Sep 2019

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal Earth System Dynamics (ESD).

Winter hydrometeorological extreme events modulated by large scale atmospheric circulation in southern Ontario

Olivier Champagne1, Martin Leduc2, Paulin Coulibaly1,3, and M. Altaf Arain1 Olivier Champagne et al.
  • 1School of Geography and Earth Sciences, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
  • 2Ouranos and Centre ESCER, Université du Québec á Montréal, Montréal, Québec, Canada
  • 3Department of Civil Engineering, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada

Abstract. Extreme events are widely studied across the world because of their major implications for many aspects of society and especially floods. These events are generally studied in term of precipitation or temperature extreme indices that are often not adapted for regions affected by floods caused by snowmelt. Rain on Snow index has been widely used but it neglects rain only events which are expected to be more frequent in the future. In this study we identified a new winter compound index and assessed how large-scale atmospheric circulation controls the past and future evolution of these events in the Great Lakes region. The future evolution of this index was projected using temperature and precipitation from the Canadian Regional Climate Model Large Ensemble (CRCM5-LE). These climate data were used as input in PRMS hydrological model to simulate the future evolution of high flows in three watersheds in Southern Ontario. We also used five recurrent large-scale atmospheric circulation patterns in northeastern North America and identified how they control the past and future variability of the newly created index and high flows. The results show that daily precipitation higher than 10 mm and temperature higher than 5 °C were a necessary historical condition to produce high flows in these three watersheds. In the historical period, the occurrences of these heavy rain and warm events as well as high flows were associated to two main patterns characterized by high Z500 anomalies centred on eastern Great Lakes (HP) and the Atlantic Ocean (South). These hydrometeorological extreme events will be more frequent in the near future and will still be associated to the same atmospheric patterns. The future evolution of the index will be modulated by the internal variability of the climate system as higher Z500 in the east coast will amplify the increase in the number of events, especially the warm events. The relationship between the extreme weather index and high flows will be modified in the future as the snowpack reduces and rain becomes the main component of high flows generation. This study shows the values of CRCM5-LE dataset to simulate hydrometeorological extreme events in Eastern Canada and to better understand the uncertainties associated to internal variability of climate.

Olivier Champagne et al.
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Olivier Champagne et al.
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Short summary
Southern Ontario has seen more high flows in winter recently due to earlier snowmelt. We show that daily rain amount of 10mm and temperature higher than 5°C are necessary conditions to generate winter high flows in the historical period. These conditions are associated with high-pressure on the east coast bringing warm and wet conditions from the South. In the future, as snowfall decreases, warm events will generate less high flows while rainfall will become the main floods contributor.
Southern Ontario has seen more high flows in winter recently due to earlier snowmelt. We show...
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