A systematic review of climate change science relevant to Australian design flood estimation

Conrad Wasko, Seth Westra, Rory Nathan, Acacia Pepler, Timothy H. Raupach, Andrew Dowdy, Fiona Johnson, Michelle Ho, Kathleen L. McInnes, Doerte Jakob, Jason Evans, Gabriele Villarini, Hayley J. Fowler

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


In response to flood risk, design flood estimation is a cornerstone of planning, infrastructure design, setting of insurance premiums, and emergency response planning. Under stationary assumptions, flood guidance and the methods used in design flood estimation are firmly established in practice and mature in their theoretical foundations, but under climate change, guidance is still in its infancy. Human-caused climate change is influencing factors that contribute to flood risk such as rainfall extremes and soil moisture, and there is a need for updated flood guidance. However, a barrier to updating flood guidance is the translation of the science into practical application. For example, most science pertaining to historical changes to flood risk focuses on examining trends in annual maximum flood events or the application of non-stationary flood frequency analysis. Although this science is valuable, in practice, design flood estimation focuses on exceedance probabilities much rarer than annual maximum events, such as the 1ĝ€¯% annual exceedance probability event or even rarer, using rainfall-based procedures, at locations where there are few to no observations of streamflow. Here, we perform a systematic review to summarize the state-of-the-art understanding of the impact of climate change on design flood estimation in the Australian context, while also drawing on international literature. In addition, a meta-analysis, whereby results from multiple studies are combined, is conducted for extreme rainfall to provide quantitative estimates of possible future changes. This information is described in the context of contemporary design flood estimation practice to facilitate the inclusion of climate science into design flood estimation practice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1251-1285
Number of pages35
JournalHydrology and Earth System Sciences
Issue number5
StatePublished - Mar 15 2024

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Water Science and Technology
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)


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