Donald Burn

Adjunct Professor
Donald Burn

Contact information


Donald Burn

Biography summary

Donald H. Burn is a Professor in the Civil and Environmental Engineering department, as well as a member of the Environmental and Water Resources Engineering Research Group and the Water Institute. He was a member of the Study Board for the International Joint Commission’s International Upper Great Lakes Study and was previously a co-editor of the Canadian Water Resources Journal.

Professor Burn conducts research that deals with statistical aspects of hydrology. The primary focus of this work is in regional frequency analysis, in which he has developed approaches for identifying and forming groups of catchments that have been used elsewhere in Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom.

Professor Burn also investigates approaches for characterizing drought probabilities in large drainage basins using stream flow generation techniques. He investigates the hydrologic implications of climatic change, and develops methods for extending short hydrologic data records. He also investigates issues related to the design of data collection networks and develops approaches for rationalizing data collection activities. The use of emerging technologies for solving water resource problems has led to research investigating the use of neural networks for developing improved approaches for short term stream flow forecasting. Professor Burn uses systems analysis techniques to address problems related to water quality management and reservoir operation.

Research interests

  • Hydrological extremes
  • Regional analysis
  • Frequency analysis
  • Hydrological variability
  • Risk
  • Quantile estimation
  • Bivariate analysis
  • Hydrology
  • Climate change
  • Environmental & Water Resources
  • Water


  • 1985, Doctorate, Civil Engineering, University of Waterloo
  • 1982, Master of Applied Science, Civil Engineering, University of Waterloo
  • 1981, Master of Applied Science, Civil Engineering, University of Waterloo


  • CIVE 486 - Hydrology
    • Taught in 2018
  • CIVE 680 - Water Management
    • Taught in 2018

* Only courses taught in the past 5 years are displayed.

Selected/recent publications

  • O'Brien NL, DH Burn, WK Annable, PJ Thompson, Trend Detection in the Presence of Positive and Negative Serial Correlation: A Comparison of Block Maxima and Peaks-over-Threshold Data, Water Resources Research, Accepted: March, 2021, 28p. DOI: 10.1029/2020WR028886
  • Burn, Donald H and Caissie, Daniel and Peters, Daniel L and Renzetti, Steven and St-Hilaire, Andre and Whitfield, Paul H, Preface to the Special Issue on Floods in Canada, Canadian Water Resources Journal/Revue canadienne des ressources hydriques, 2016, 1 - 5
  • Modarres, Reza and Sarhadi, Ali and Burn, Donald H, Changes of extreme drought and flood events in Iran, Global and Planetary Change, 144, 2016, 67 - 81
  • Sarhadi, Ali and Burn, Donald H and Concepción Ausín, María and Wiper, Michael P, Time varying nonstationary multivariate risk analysis using a dynamic Bayesian copula, Water Resources Research, 2016
  • Burn, Donald H and Whitfield, Paul H, Changes in floods and flood regimes in Canada, Canadian Water Resources Journal/Revue canadienne des ressources hydriques, 41(1-2), 2016, 139 - 150
  • Irwin, Sarah and Srivastav, Roshan K and Simonovic, Slobodan P and Burn, Donald H, Delineation of Precipitation Regions using Location and Atmospheric Variables in Two Canadian Climate Regions: The role of attribute selection, Hydrological Sciences Journal, 2016

Graduate studies