Archive for January, 2008
Observing and measuring occurrences in nature is the basis for any science, and is the basis for any engineering related to nature. Environmental engineering is very much related to nature. The problem with measurements is that they take time and are expensive. Nevertheless, every model used for prediction/forecasting needs to be calibrated on relevant and significant data. In some middle scale this is an ok task, say measuring the relevant parameters for a gasoline spill from a gas station is feasible. However, things get very complicated on both sides of that scale: moving towards the pore scale, or towards a capture zone, a watershed, or even bigger (maybe global) scale makes things even more difficult. Some questions that might arise include: How do you measure something at a pore scale? Has anybody ever measured groundwater velocity? Really? How do you measure hydraulic conductivity and which value do you put into a groundwater model? How do you access/store the collected data if you need to collect data on a global scale? I could go on…
If a time-component needs to be included, managing what data needs or should be gathered and managing the gathered data can get out of hands, even with today’s fairly sophisticated data managing and analysis tools.
Maintaining a measurement network is a difficult task, but initiating a measurement network something completely different. Sometimes however it happens that somebody or a group of people have the foresight to measure something, or to start to measure something, and the result is an incredible data-set: the tritium isotope data-set started 1952 in Ottawa, Canada, or the measurements of CO2 on Mauna Loa in Hawaii by Charles Keeling starting in 1958. How cool are those data-sets?
Special Issue of “Nature”
Nature has a special issue on ‘earth observation’. I think all articles are important — here are a few interesting thoughts:
The editorial “Patcing Together a World View” sets the stage: It points out how important measurements are, that they make us see things in a different way. He also addresses computers with geographic information systems as the tools that enable us to pull all the gathered data together
The creation of these new ways of seeing the world would be a significant aesthetic achievement even if they had no commercial, scientific or strategic use. In fact they have all three â€” as well as an even greater environmental usefulness.
Alexandra Witze points in her article “Not Enough Eyes on the Prize”, that often the same things are measured by different agencies, or different countries, funneling funds away from other new measurements. She also points to the problem of measuring things in new (“exciting”) ways with new techniques versus the needs for operational measurements on a regular basis
Declan Buttler paints in his article “The Planetary Panopticon” a picture of real-time monitoring everywhere on earth. This requires instruments/satellites, computers, and still, a lot of money. He quotes Rick Anthes:
A user will be able to get, on demand, climate, or any other information for any place on the planet, on the land, in the oceans, or in the atmosphere, at any time, past, present and future.â€
Human-generated carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is slowly acidifying the ocean, threatening a catastrophic impact on marine life. And just as scientists are starting to grasp the magnitude of the problem, researchers have delivered more bad news: Acid rain is making things worse.
read more | digg story
For me, Christmas Holidays are for the family. But sometimes you gotta take a little break and so I did some reading to catch up with my blog-subscriptions and some more reading in the vastness of the internet. Here are some things I found relevant for planetwater.org:
Water, Global Warming
Here are a couple of interesting and not necessarily related links to things relevant to water and global warming:
High tritium levels found in landfill in Ontario
Funding for science, policies?
I don’t want to get much into a political debate, especially not before or during presidential elections in the US. I’m sure there are enough pages on the internet and elsewhere that cover that. However, when it comes to environmental legislation, this might be worth remembering: US legislation passed before christmas
The goole earth blog has written about the influence of human beings on earth. There are two interesting maps:
Browsing through the web trying to find good scientific presenters, I came across Carl Sagan. He was instrumental in SETI, and he had a TV show called “cosmos”, which is available on DVD. I really like his seven-minute long talk on nuclear war: