The most recent report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPPC) presented medium confidence in projected increases of precipitation and run-off in some regions, while in others these are projected to decrease. However, the intensification of the climate is more generally projected to increase, which may lead to larger floods. Other studies have assessed the projected precipitation and have agreed with the IPPC assessment. These changes in climate present a concern about the risk of failure of large dams, given that most of these structures were built during the second half of the 20th century with different methods and often with limited hydrological data, resulting in uncertainty on how the design discharge capacity of the spillways can provide sufficient safety levels against overtopping in both the current and future climate. This study analyses the impacts of climate change on the failure of dams due to overtopping at a global scale The analysis is based on current and projected hydrological data obtained from the a PCR-GLOBWB Global Hydrological Model and five Global Climate Models (GCMs) selected from CMIP5 (Climate Model Intercomparison Project, phase 5). In this research an analysis of the design flood for a sample of about 1400 dams across the world under current, historical and future scenarios of climate change is made, and compared to the original design flood, by building a synthetic spillway design (using re-analysis data from CRU TS 3.2 and ERA-Interim datasets). Results from this study show that changes can be expected for the spillway discharge capacity. A consistent trend of increasing difference of the spillway capacity between the RCP4.5 and RCP8.5 scenarios and the baseline runs shows that there is a direct impact of climate change on the increase of dam failures rates due to overtopping. East Asia, South Asia, Central North America and Western North America are the regions facing the biggest rise in spillway discharge.

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Published on 04/11/21

Licence: CC BY-NC-SA license

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