Database of Past and Future Storm Surges and their Return Period Analyses

ACCASP # Que 12


An example of time series of storm surges at Sept-Îles, Quebec. The top panel shows actual observed storm surges, the middle panel was modelled using a realistic atmospheric forcing field (MERRA) for the years 1979 to 2011. The bottom panel illustrates storm surges modelled using possible climate forcing from 1950 to 2100 (CRCM/AHJ). Storm surges are driven by atmospheric forcing: winds and air pressure. Climate forcing refers to future atmospheric forcing associated with climate change. Credit: DFO (Figure adapted from Xu et al 2015)

Storm surges are a severe coastal hazard that can affect coastal erosion, flooding and navigation safety, and can also damage marine infrastructure. Climate change has the potential to cause more storm surges. This project aims to establish a database of past and future storm surges (1950–2100), which can be used to assess the possibility of changes in surge return periods due to climate change. A “return period” is the average length of time in years for an event (e.g. storm surge or flood) of a given magnitude to be equalled or exceeded.

The database will consist of time series of water levels for the permanent tide gauges in the Atlantic and Quebec regions operated by the Canadian Hydrographic Service (CHS). The database and return period analyses will provide useful information to the CHS, the Small Craft Harbours Program and a variety of other decision-making areas affected by water-level related risks. The Atlantic Storm Prediction Centre of Environment Canada is also interested in having such a database. This project is an extension of an on-going similar project funded by the Ministère des Transports du Québec (Québec Ministry of Transport), which aims to provide storm-surge modelling results for assessing climate-change related risks to transportation infrastructure.

Program Name

Aquatic Climate Change Adaptation Services Program (ACCASP)


2014 - 2016


Atlantic: Gulf of St. Lawrence, St. Lawrence Estuary

Atlantic: Newfoundland, Labrador Shelves

Principal Investigator(s)

Zhigang Xu
DFO, Quebec Region
Tel.: (418) 775-0776

Denis Lefaivre
DFO, Quebec Region
Tel.: (418) 775-0568

Richard Sanfaçon
Tel.: (418) 775-0517

Michel C. Goguen
Tel.: (902) 426-4961

George Schlagintweit
CHS, Central and Arctic, DFO
Tel.: (902) 426-4961

Denis D’Amours
Tel.: (250) 363-6347

Stéphane Dumont
Small Craft Harbour, Quebec, DFO
Tel.: (418) 648-7402


Serge Desjardins
Atlantic Storm Prediction Centre, EC
Tel.: (902) 426-9131

Team Member(s)

Michel Beaulieu, Research Assistant, DFO Quebec, Science

Alain D’Astous, Research Assistant, DFO Quebec, Science

Phillip MacAulay, Collaborator, DFO Maritime, CHS

Jean-Pierre Savard, Collaborator, OURANOS

Keith Thompson, Advisor, Dalhousie University

Tad Murty, Advisor, Ottawa University

Tony Song, Advisor, JPL/NASA, USA

Collaborating Government Department(s)

Environment Canada

Collaborative Partner(s)

Transport Ministry (Quebec)

Université du Quebec (Rimouski)

Collaborative International Partner(s)


Date modified: