Climate Dynamics

, Volume 44, Issue 1–2, pp 255–277 | Cite as

Seasonal and extreme precipitation characteristics for the watersheds of the Canadian Prairie Provinces as simulated by the NARCCAP multi-RCM ensemble

  • M. N. Khaliq
  • L. Sushama
  • A. Monette
  • H. Wheater


This study evaluates projected changes to characteristics of winter, spring, summer and fall seasonal precipitation and rain and snow dominated daily precipitation extremes for 47 watersheds, located mainly in the Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba provinces of Canada, using a multi-Regional Climate Model (RCM) ensemble available through the North American Regional Climate Change Assessment Program. The set of simulations considered includes those performed with the six participating RCMs for the 1980–2004 period driven by National Centre for Environmental Prediction reanalysis II and those driven by four Atmosphere–Ocean General Circulation Models (AOGCMs) for the 1971–2000 and 2041–2070 periods. For precipitation extremes, regional frequency analysis is used to develop projected changes to selected 10-, 30- and 50-year return levels of rain and snow dominated extremes (i.e. RDEs and SDEs) separately. The uncertainties due to internal dynamics and physics of the RCMs and those due to the lateral boundary data from driving AOGCMs are studied at the watershed level and evaluated in terms of coefficient of variation on the basis of a multi-RCM ensemble. In general, the structural uncertainty appears to be larger than that associated with the choice of the driving AOGCM for most of the precipitation characteristics considered. Analyses of multi-RCM ensemble-averaged projected changes to mean seasonal precipitation and various return levels of RDEs and SDEs show an increase over nearly all the study domain. The changes to seasonal precipitation are not generally found statistically significant at 5 % significance level but those for RDEs and SDEs are found significant more often for return levels of smaller return period (10-year) compared to those of larger return period (50-year). It is expected that changes in seasonal and extreme precipitation characteristics will have important implications for managing regional water security-related issues in the Canadian Prairie Provinces.


Canadian Prairie Provinces Climate change Precipitation extremes Regional climate models Regional frequency analysis Seasonal precipitation 



The authors would like to thank NARCCAP project team for the RCM-simulated precipitation data used in this study, Richard Warren from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada for providing observed gridded precipitation data set, David Sauchyn from Prairie Adaptation Research Collaborative for providing watershed masks and Badrul Masud for graphical and computational support. The funding for this study was provided by the University of Saskatchewan and Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada. We sincerely thank two anonymous referees for their very helpful comments.


  1. Alberta Environmental Monitoring Panel (2011) A world class environmental monitoring, evaluation and reporting system for Alberta. The report of the Alberta Environmental Monitoring Panel. Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development, Edmonton, AlbertaGoogle Scholar
  2. Beniston M, Stephenson DB, Christenson OB, Ferro CAT, Frei C, Goyette S, Halsnaes K, Holt T, Jylhä K, Koffi B, Palutikof J, Schöll R, Semmler T, Woth K (2007) Future extreme events in European climate: an exploration of regional climate model projections. Clim Change 81:71–95CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Booij MJ (2002) Extreme daily precipitation in western Europe with climate change at appropriate spatial scales. Int J Climatol 22:69–85CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Caldwell P (2010) California wintertime precipitation bias in regional and global climate models. J Appl Meteorol Climatol 49:2147–2158CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Christensen JH, Christensen OB (2003) Severe summertime flooding in Europe. Nature 421:805–806CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Christensen JH, Carter TR, Rummukainen M, Amanatidis G (2007) Evaluating the performance and utility of regional climate models: the PRUDENCE project. Clim Change 81:1–6CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Christensen JH, Rummukainen M, Lenderink G (2009) Formulation of very-high-resolution regional climate model ensembles for Europe. In: van der Linden P, Mitchell JFB (eds) ENSEMBLES: climate change and its impacts: summary of research and results from the ENSEMBLES project. Met Office Hadley Centre, UK, pp 47–58Google Scholar
  8. Clavet-Gaumont J, Sushama L, Khaliq MN, Huziy O, Roy R (2013) Canadian RCM projected changes to high flows for Québec watersheds using regional frequency analysis. Int J Climatol 33(4):2940–2955Google Scholar
  9. Coles S (2001) An introduction to statistical modeling of extreme values. Springer, LondonCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Crétat J, Pohl B (2011) How physical parameterizations can modulate internal variability in a regional climate model. J Atmos Sci 69:714–724CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Efron B, Tibshirani RJ (1993) An introduction to the bootstrap. Chapman and Hall, LondonCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Ekström M, Fowler HJ, Kilsby CG, Jones PD (2005) New estimates of future changes in extreme rainfall across the UK using regional climate model integrations. 2. Future estimates and use in impact studies. J Hydrol 300:234–251CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Fowler HJ, Ekström M, Kilsby CG, Jones PD (2005) New estimates of future changes in extreme rainfall across the UK using regional climate model integrations, 1: assessment of control climate. J Hydrol 300(1–4):212–233CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Frei C, Schöoll R, Fukutome S, Schmidli J, Vidale PL (2006) Future change of precipitation extremes in Europe: intercomparison of scenarios from regional climate models. J Geophys Res 111:D06105. doi: 10.1029/2005JD005965 Google Scholar
  15. Gao Y, Leung LR, Salathé EP Jr, Dominguez F, Nijssen B, Lettenmaier DP (2012) Moisture flux convergence in regional and global climate models: implications for droughts in the southwestern United States under climate change. Geophys Res Lett 39:L09711. doi: 10.1029/2012GL051560 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Hagedorn R, Doblas-Reyes FJ, Palmer TN (2005) The rationale behind the success of multi-model ensembles in seasonal forecasting—I. Basic concept. Tellus 57A:219–233CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Hayashi M, van der Kamp G (2009) Progress in scientific studies of groundwater in the hydrologic cycle in Canada, 2003–2007. Can Water Resour J 34:177–186CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Heinrich G, Gobiet A (2011) Uncertainty assessment of the reclip: century ensemble. Wegener Center for Climate and Global Change, Institute for Geophysics, Astrophysics, and Meteorology, University of Graz, Austria. Final Report, Part D.
  19. Hosking JRM, Wallis JR (1997) Regional frequency analysis. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Hutchinson MF (2004) ANUSPLIN version 4.36. Centre for Resource and Environmental Studies, Australian National University.
  21. Huziy O, Sushama L, Khaliq MN, Laprise R, Lehner B, Roy R (2012) Analysis of streamflow characteristics over Northeastern Canada in a changing climate. Clim Dyn 40:1879–1901CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. IPCC (2007) Cimate change: the physical science basis—summary for policy makers. Contribution of Working Group 1 to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Geneva, SwitzerlandGoogle Scholar
  23. Khaliq MN, Ouarda TBMJ, Sushama L, Gachon P (2009) Identification of hydrological trends in the presence of serial and cross correlations: a review of selected methods and their application to annual flow regimes of Canadian rivers. J Hydrol 368:117–130CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Mailhot A, Duchesne S, Caya D, Talbot G (2007) Assessment of future change in intensity–duration–frequency (IDF) curves for Southern Quebec using the Canadian Regional Climate Model (CRCM). J Hydrol 347:197–210CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Mailhot A, Beauregard I, Talbot G, Caya D, Biner S (2012) Future changes in intense precipitation over Canada assessed from multi-model NARCCAP ensemble simulations. Int J Climatol. doi: 10.1002/joc.2343 Google Scholar
  26. Martz L, Bruneauand J, Rolfe JT (2007) Assessment of the vulnerability of key water use sectors in the South Saskatchewan River Basin (Alberta and Saskatchewan) to changes in water supply resulting from climate change, SSRB Final Technical Report. Accessed 26 May 2012
  27. May W (2008) Potential future changes in the characteristics of daily precipitation in Europe simulated by the HIRHAM regional climate model. Clim Dyn 30:581–603CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Mearns LO, Gutowski WJ, Jones R, Leung L-Y, McGinnis S, Nunes AMB, Qian Y (2009) A regional climate change assessment program for North America. Eos Trans Am Geophys Union 90:311–312CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Mladjic B, Sushama L, Khaliq MN, Laprise R, Caya D, Roy R (2011) Canadian RCM projected changes to extreme precipitation characteristics over Canada. J Clim 24:2565–2584CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Monette A, Sushama L, Khaliq MN, Laprise R, Roy R (2012) Projected changes to precipitation extremes for Northeast Canadian watersheds using a multi-RCM ensemble. J Geophys Res 117:D13106. doi: 10.1029/2012JD017543 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Newlands NK, Davidson A, Howard A, Hill H (2010) Validation and inter-comparison of three methodologies for interpolating daily precipitation and temperature across Canada. Environmetrics. doi: 10.1002/env.1044 Google Scholar
  32. Nikulin G, Kjellström E, Hansson U, Strandberg G, Ullerstig A (2011) Evaluation and future projections of temperature, precipitation and wind extremes over Europe in an ensemble of regional climate simulations. Tellus 63(1):41–55CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Poitras V, Sushama L, Segleniek F, Khaliq MN, Soulis E (2011) Projected changes to streamflow characteristics over western Canada as simulated by the Canadian RCM. J Hydrometeorol 126:1395–1413CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Pomeroy J, Pietroniro A, Fang X, Shaw D, Armstrong R, Shook K, Comeau L, Toth B, Martz L, Westbrook C (2011) Canadian prairie drought hydrology. In: Stewart R, Lawford R (eds) Drought Research Initiative. ISBN No. 978-0-9868749-0-1, pp 59–62Google Scholar
  35. Semmler T, Jacob D (2004) Modeling extreme precipitation events—a climate change simulation for Europe. Glob Planet Change 44:119–127CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Strong G (2011) Land cover and orographic and convective storm links to Alberta drought conditions, In: Stewart R, Lawford R (eds) Drought Research Initiative. ISBN No. 978-0-9868749-0-1, pp 47–50Google Scholar
  37. Sushama L, Laprise R, Caya D, Frigon A, Slivitzky M (2006) Canadian RCM projected climate-change signal and its sensitivity to model errors. Int J Climatol 26(15):2141–2159CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Sushama L, Khaliq MN, Laprise R (2010) Dry spell characteristics over Canada in a changing climate as simulated by the Canadian RCM. Glob Planet Change 74:1–14CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. van der Kamp G, Hayashi M (1998) The groundwater recharge function of small wetlands in the semi-arid Northern Prairies. Gt Plains Res 8(1):39–56Google Scholar
  40. Viessman W Jr, Knapp JW, Lewis G, Harbaugh T (1977) Introduction to hydrology. Harper & Row, New York, pp 704Google Scholar
  41. Wehner MF (2012) Very extreme seasonal precipitation in the NARCCAP ensemble: model performance and projections. Clim Dyn. doi: 10.1007/s00382-012-1393-1 Google Scholar
  42. Wheater HS, Gober P (2013) Water security in the Canadian prairies: science and management challenges, Philos Trans Roy Soc A. doi: 10.1098/rsta.2012.0409

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. N. Khaliq
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • L. Sushama
    • 3
  • A. Monette
    • 3
  • H. Wheater
    • 2
  1. 1.Ocean, Coastal and River EngineeringNational Research CouncilOttawaCanada
  2. 2.Global Institute for Water Security, School of Environment and SustainabilityUniversity of SaskatchewanSaskatoonCanada
  3. 3.Centre Étude et Simulation du Climat à l’Échelle RégionaleUniversity of Quebec at MontrealMontrealCanada

Personalised recommendations