Articles | Volume 21, issue 5
Research article
23 May 2017
Research article |  | 23 May 2017

Assessment of extreme flood events in a changing climate for a long-term planning of socio-economic infrastructure in the Russian Arctic

Elena Shevnina, Ekaterina Kourzeneva, Viktor Kovalenko, and Timo Vihma

Abstract. Climate warming has been more acute in the Arctic than at lower latitudes and this tendency is expected to continue. This generates major challenges for economic activity in the region. Among other issues is the long-term planning and development of socio-economic infrastructure (dams, bridges, roads, etc.), which require climate-based forecasts of the frequency and magnitude of detrimental flood events. To estimate the cost of the infrastructure and operational risk, a probabilistic form of long-term forecasting is preferable. In this study, a probabilistic model to simulate the parameters of the probability density function (PDF) for multi-year runoff based on a projected climatology is applied to evaluate changes in extreme floods for the territory of the Russian Arctic. The model is validated by cross-comparison of the modelled and empirical PDFs using observations from 23 sites located in northern Russia. The mean values and coefficients of variation (CVs) of the spring flood depth of runoff are evaluated under four climate scenarios, using simulations of six climate models for the period 2010–2039. Regions with substantial expected changes in the means and CVs of spring flood depth of runoff are outlined. For the sites located within such regions, it is suggested to account for the future climate change in calculating the maximal discharges of rare occurrence. An example of engineering calculations for maximal discharges with 1 % exceedance probability is provided for the Nadym River at Nadym.

Short summary
This paper presents the probabilistic approach to evaluate design floods in a changing climate, adapted in this case to the northern territories. For the Russian Arctic, the regions are delineated, where it is suggested to correct engineering hydrological calculations to account for climate change. An example of the calculation of a maximal discharge of 1 % exceedance probability for the Nadym River at Nadym is provided.