Climate modeling and observation data have already shown the growing frequency and intensity of rainfall events due to a warming climate. Engineers use intensity–duration–frequency curves for flood forecasting and urban drainage design. Researchers, Jean-Luc Martel; François P. Brissette; Philippe Lucas-Picher; Magali Troin; and Richard Arsenault, performed a critical review of trends of extreme rainfall under a warmer climate.

Their paper “Climate Change and Rainfall Intensity–Duration–Frequency Curves: Overview of Science and Guidelines for Adaptation,” published in the Journal of Hydrologic Engineering, also assesses how their findings will include IDF curves in the future, as well as proposes a nonstationarity model of IDF curves that is easily accessible for different regions of the world for design and operational purposes.

They discuss the scientific gaps, current governmental guidelines, and provide recommendations to adapt IDF curves for infrastructure design. Learn about their results in the abstract below or by reading the full paper in the ASCE Library:

Want to know more? See ASCE’s latest book on climate change, Impacts of Future Weather and Climate Extremes on United States Infrastructure: Assessing and Prioritizing Adaptation Actions, which summarizes the likely changes in various extreme meteorological and hydrological events and assesses the vulnerabilities of infrastructure within critical sectors and their collective interdependencies.


One of the most important impacts of a future warmer climate is the projected increase in the frequency and intensity of extreme rainfall events. This increasing trend in extreme rainfall is seen in both the observational record and climate model projections. However, a thorough review of the recent scientific literature paints a complex picture in which the intensification of rainfall extremes depends on a multitude of factors. While some projected rainfall indices follow the Clausius-Clapeyron relationship scaling of a ~7% increase in rainfall per 1°C of warming, there is substantial evidence that this scaling depends on rainfall extremes frequency, with longer return period events seeing larger increases, leading to super Clausius-Clapeyron scaling in some cases. The intensification of extreme rainfall events is now well documented at the daily scale but is less clear at the subdaily scale. In recent years, climate model simulations at a finer spatial and temporal resolution, including convection-permitting models, have provided more reliable projections of subdaily rainfall. Recent analyses indicate that rainfall scaling may also increase as a function of duration, such that shorter-duration, longer return period events will likely see the largest rainfall increases in a warmer climate. This has broad implications on the design and the use of rainfall intensity–duration–frequency (IDF) curves, for which both an overall increase in magnitude and a steepening can now be predicted. This paper also presents an overview of measures that have been adopted by various governing bodies to adapt IDF curves to the changing climate. Current measures vary from multiplying historical design rainfall by a simple constant percentage to modulating correction factors based on return periods and to scaling them to the Clausius-Clapeyron relationship based on projected temperature increases. All of these current measures fail to recognize a possible super Clausius-Clapeyron scaling of extreme rainfall and, perhaps more importantly, the increasing scaling toward shorter-duration rainfall and the most extreme rainfall events that will significantly impact stormwater runoff in cities and in small rural catchments. This paper discusses the remaining scientific gaps and offers technical recommendations for practitioners on how to adapt IDF curves to improve climate resilience.

Read the full paper in the ASCE Library: