Nonstationarity in Extremes and Engineering Design

  • Dörte Jakob
Part of the Water Science and Technology Library book series (WSTL, volume 65)


Dealing with nonstationarity in hydrological extremes in the design of structures is a truly multidisciplinary undertaking; requiring expertise in hydrology, statistics, engineering and decision-making. This chapter gives a broad overview over relevant key aspects in these areas including definitions of key words like ‘extremes’ and ‘stationarity’. We briefly cover current knowledge of both climate variability and climate change and effects on hydrological extremes with particular emphasis on precipitation and floods. This is followed by a brief discussion on impacts of hydrological extremes, risk assessments and options for adaptation as well as hurdles. A large part of this chapter is dedicated to new statistical techniques (or extensions of existing techniques) to address nonstationarity in hydrological extremes through the use of time-varying parameters, moments, quantile estimates and the use of covariates. A changing climate may prove impetus to change some of the existing paradigms and explore new avenues. The need to reduce uncertainty, or alternatively derive more reliable uncertainty estimates, is exacerbated in a changing climate. One of the key strategies should be a move from deterministic to probabilistic approaches. Bayesian techniques are a promising framework in this context.


Tropical Cyclone Flood Risk Indian Ocean Dipole Southern Oscillation Index Southern Annular Mode 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



The importance of the subject matter is evident from the number of recent journal publications and workshops on the topic. For readers looking for a small number of informative discussions and reviews focusing on particular aspects, the following is a shortlist of recommended reading. Extensive use has been made of this material in the preparation of this book chapter.

Hydrological extremes in a changing world

Bates et al. (2008)

IPCC (2011)

Kundzewicz and Kaczmarek (2000)

Rainfall frequency analysis

Svensson and Jones (2010)

Frequency analysis under nonstationarity

Khaliq et al. (2006)

Bayesian techniques

Seidou et al. (2006)

Decision making

Water Utility Climate Alliance (2010)


Workshop on Nonstationarity, Hydrologic Frequency Analysis, and Water Management, 13–15 January 2010, Boulder, Colorado, Colorado Water Institute Information Series No. 109, available online:

I am grateful to all of those who have supported me in writing this chapter. In particular I would like to thank Sri Srikanthan and Karin Xuereb at the Australian Bureau of Meteorology and Amir AghaKouchak at the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering University of California for their input during the review process.


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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Earth SciencesUniversity of MelbourneMelbourneAustralia
  2. 2.Climate and Water DivisionBureau of MeteorologyMelbourneAustralia

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