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Study the impact of climate change on water flows

Context and project description

One of the main effects of climate change will be the altering of the hydrological cycle and, consequently, water flows around the world. A lot of work awaits the scientific community, which must attempt to forecast these effects in a way that helps societies to prepare for or adapt to current or coming changes. In the case of the St. Lawrence-Great Lakes (SLGL) system, the work began a few years ago. A group of experts brought together as part of the SLAP set out various climate change scenarios that allow us to foresee their effects on water flows. The scenarios must take into consideration varying spatial scales (watersheds and sub-watersheds) and temporal scales (from decades to daily scenarios).

Given the complexity of the project and the numerous participants, a detailed working environment first needed to be established for each of the steps to be accomplished in order to meet the targeted objective, which consists of promoting sustainable management of water levels and flows in the SLGL system. Then, we will have defined the best temporal and spatial scales for the analyses, determined the hydrological cycle variables (for example, low and high water levels) in the current or historical climate for characterization and comparison (reference value) and, finally, elaborated the various scenarios on the retained space and time scales. All of this will be carried out using numerous simulations and analyses produced with the aid of atmospheric and hydrological models that are available in the scientific community, taking into consideration all relevant variables associated with the hydrological cycle.


The many stakeholders involved in this project are continuing their work to pool all the data needed for the prediction of water levels in the St. Lawrence in relation to various climate change scenarios. The main challenge involves pooling data generated by different methods. The scientists hope to complete the amalgamation of the data shortly. After that, an initial modelling run will be carried out using the data collected.

Participating departments and organization

Government of Canada

  • Environment and Climate Change Canada

Government of Quebec

  • Ministère du Développement durable, de l’Environnement et de la Lutte contre les changements climatiques

Private non-profit organization

  • Ouranos (a climate change research consortium)