In cold regions, every year, river-ice jams generate sudden, surprising, intense flooding that challenges the capacity of public security services. This type of flood is commonly unpredictable and often appears chaotic because its occurrence depends on multiple, interacting weather, hydrological, ice and morphological parameters. This paper presents the findings of a research project assessing how climate change impacts dynamic river-ice breakup and associated floods along seven rivers of the province of Quebec, Canada. A combination of empirical river-ice breakup models, state-of-the-art hydrological simulations and standardized climate projections was used to estimate the historical (1972–2000) and future (2042–2070) frequencies of dynamic breakup events. Ice jam flood damage reimbursement data were used to predict changes to financial risk associated with dynamic breakup events. Results show that, overall, ice-jam floods will generate more damage in the future, which justifies watershed-based flood adaptation plans that take into account cold regions hydrological processes. The success of the methodology also sets the table for a comparable project that would include more rivers from different regions of Northeastern America.
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