CCN News

EEA joins forces with European Water Partnership
added on 28 09 2009 by Clare Black
The European Environment Agency and the European Water Partnership (EWP) announced today a new cooperation plan to improve water use in Europe. The Read more..

The European Environment Agency and the European Water Partnership (EWP) announced today a new cooperation plan to improve water use in Europe. The first initiatives of the cooperation will be to develop a vision for sustainable water, raise awareness and strengthen information flows. “To be truly effective and relevant, environmental policy must be developed together with the actors who will work with it. For the water area, this means involving those who actually use, distribute and treat water such as agriculture, water utilities, industries, the energy or transport sector. This cooperation with EWP and its partners is a crucial step for us in that direction” said Professor Jacqueline McGlade, Executive Director of the EEA.

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Met Office warns of catastrophic global warming in our lifetimes
added on 28 09 2009 by Clare Black
Unchecked global warming could bring a severe temperature rise of 4°C within many people's lifetimes, according to a new report for the British government Read more..

Unchecked global warming could bring a severe temperature rise of 4°C within many people’s lifetimes, according to a new report for the British government that significantly raises the stakes over climate change.

The study, prepared for the Department of Energy and Climate Change by scientists at the Met Office, challenges the assumption that severe warming will be a threat only for future generations, and warns that a catastrophic 4°C rise in temperature could happen by 2060 without strong action on emissions.

“We’ve always talked about these very severe impacts only affecting future generations, but people alive today could live to see a 4°C rise,” said Richard Betts, the head of climate impacts at the Met Office Hadley Centre, who will announce the findings today at a conference at Oxford University. “People will say it’s an extreme scenario, and it is an extreme scenario, but it’s also a plausible scenario.”

Further reading.

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Catchment Models as Hypotheses
added on 27 09 2009 by Clare Black
I am just back from the , India, held jointly with the . There were a number of sessions relevant to the focus areas of CCN. Sessions included flood Read more..

I am just back from the , India, held jointly with the . There were a number of sessions relevant to the focus areas of CCN. Sessions included flood risk management; surface water groundwater interactions; hydroinformatics; new statistics in hydrology; minimising adverse impacts of global change on water resources; sustainability of groundwater; improving integrated water resources management; hydrological prediction where data is sparse; hydrological theory and limits to predictability in ungauged basins; use of isotope tracers; precipitation variability and water resources;  There was also a session reporting on progress in the working group of IAHS with an outline of the Benchmark Report that is currently being prepared.

One thing that generated quite a lot of discussion during the meeting was the requirement to have catchment models for whole regions or countries or even the globe.  Kuni Tacheuchi from Japan reported on a global system based on remote sensing information to try and provide flood alerts for areas where data is sparse and local infrastructure might not be well developed. The predictions of this model are provided freely so that local hydrologists can assess and modify them if necessary. Berit Arheimer reported on the application of the new SMHI semi-distributed model which combines hydrological and water quality predictions for the whole of Sweden as a tool for assessments for the Water Framework Directive, while Olga Semenova from the State Hydrological Institute in St. Petersberg presented the results of applying a semi-distributed model to large catchments in Russia and elsewhere.  In both these cases, applications of the models depend on the identification of hydrological response units, with an expectation that parts of the landscape that belong to the same response units should have similar parameters.  In Sweden the parameter values are estimated by fitting to some of the available gauged basins and then applied across the whole country with evaluation at other gauges.  Success, including predictions of nutrients and isotope concentrations, was very good in some catchments, not so good on others but evaluation over such a large range of conditions should lead to future improvements.  In Russia, prior estimates of parameter values are used, based on physical arguments, but with evaluation across a wide range of gauges.

I have written elsewhere about “models of everywhere” of this type (see ) and gave a short presentation about these ideas at short notice when there was an empty slot in the session on limits to predictability. I am not so convinced that it will be possible to find parameter values that will give good results everywhere but the advantage of this type of model is that the visualisations of the results mean that local stakeholders will be able to look at the predictions and make their own evaluations of how well the model is doing. This can then feedback directly into model improvements, in particular where local knowledge suggests that there are deficiencies in the predictions. Effectively this form of evaluation can be treated as hypothesis testing of the local implementation of a model, with a requirement to respond when it is suggested that the model as hypothesis can be rejected. This would essentially constitute a learning process about local places in improving the models. Uncertainty estimation has to be an important part of such evaluations, of course, because we would not want to reject a model just because it has been driven by poor input data.  In the Swedish case, it was apparent that the predictions were not so good in some of the catchments in the mountains towards the Norwegian border where the input data on rainfalls and snowmelt were probably not so accurate.  In the case of the Russian model, they feel it is fair to adjust some of the snow accumulations each year since these are poorly known.  Neither currently do this within any formal uncertainty analysis.

Some of the discussion after the presentation was concerned with what such a learning process would look like.  Would it mean to adjust local parameters within some general model structure to get the best fit possible (Hoshin Gupta) or would it mean local modifications to model structures with the danger that we might end up with ad hoc modifications to deal with local circumstances (Ross Woods)? I suspect we will need something of both. There would be some advantage in moving from model testing on gauged sites to application on ungauged sites to retain a general model structure, but if such a model is to be truly general then it might be more complex than is needed in many catchments (even if components could be switched on or off).  It might also be the case that different types of applications might need more or less complex models (see some of our flood forecasting work using very simple transfer function models, e.g. ). Olga Semenova argued that only one model structure should be necessary if it is based on adequate process representations (we disagree about whether the process representations in the Russian model are adequate, even if their results give reasonable simulations).  Her argument is that a successful hydrological model should be tested over a wide range of conditions, rather than just being calibrated locally, and should perform well across all applications. If not we should look for something better.

Models of everywhere of this type are likely to become more common in the future, driven by the needs of the Water Framework Directive, Floods Directive and integrated water resources management. Thus the discussion about what a good model should look like and how models should be tested is likely to go on… It is certainly relevant to applications involving catchment change. Something for our readers to add comments on…

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About This Blog
added on 25 09 2009 by Clare Black
Catchment Conversations is a commentary site centered on uncertainty and catchment management developed to support a NERC funded Knowledge Transfer Read more..

Catchment Conversations is a commentary site centered on uncertainty and catchment management developed to support a NERC funded Knowledge Transfer Network. The Catchment Change Network is designed to improve both the understanding and management of uncertainty and risk related to future changes in water inputs within catchments. It represents one way in which we’re exploring our commitment to optimise two-way communication with our project partners, encourage and develop a dialogue and broaden awareness of knowledge and best practice across our science user groups.

We welcome suggestions for potential blog topics. If you would like to contact us, please email CCN.

User Information and disclosure: This site requires registration to use its functions, such as posting a comment. At registration we specifically ask you for personal information. Certain information is mandatory – such as your name, valid email address or password. We do not use or disclose information about your individual visits to the site or information that you may give us, such as your name, address, email address, to any third parties.

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  • Debate should be open and lively but also respectful.
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Quality of Rivers in England and Wales best for over a century
added on 23 09 2009 by Clare Black
Quality of rivers in England and Wales best for over a century. Otters, eels and salmon to return to the Thames and Mersey. Water quality in Read more..

Quality of rivers in England and Wales best for over a century.

Otters, eels and salmon to return to the Thames and Mersey.

Water quality in England and Wales has improved for the nineteenth year in a row the Environment Agency announced today. As a result, more rivers are becoming home for species that were once thought to be in terminal decline in them, such as salmon, eel and otters.
The improvement has been achieved mainly through investment by water companies, tougher action on polluters, changing farming practices and thousands of local projects. The Environment Agency also published ambitious new plans to revitalise and transform over 9,000 miles of river by 2015.

The Environment Agency has released its results on the state of rivers, which showed improvements in water quality. Figures from the Environment Agency’s annual General Quality Assessment (GQA) show that seven out of 10 English rivers and nine out of 10 Welsh rivers, achieved ‘very good’ or ‘good’ status in terms of chemical and biological water quality in 2008. Read the whole article here.

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