Comparative Hydrology for Classification, Prediction and Knowledge Accumulation
Prof. Thorsten Wagener, Professor of Water and Environmental Engineering, University of Bristol
Thursday 21 February 2013, 1300-1400
Lecture Theatre 1, Fylde College
Abstract: The objective of any scientific inquiry is to advance our understanding in a particular field of study. While there is no general agreement on the definition of scientific progress, few people would argue with the need for knowledge accumulation as an important component enabling such progress. I claim here that knowledge accumulation is inherently difficult in the science of hydrology, and that a lack of appreciation of both the need for and the difficulty of knowledge accumulation has limited our scientific progress.
Knowledge accumulation is difficult in hydrology because of:
- the diversity of our entities of studies (e.g. catchments) and a lack of observational ability to characterize key system characteristics,
- a focus on place-based studies with insufficient attention to comparability and transferability of results,
- a lack of organizing principles that can connect scientific results across scales and places.
I discuss these three problems in this talk and suggest some practical remedies to reduce the knowledge accumulation problem in hydrology. These remedies are:
- An increased focus on comparative hydrology (to complement place-based studies).
- Publication of essential hydrological descriptors to enable meta-analysis.
- Workflows and infrastructure to share data and results.
I will show results from recent studies to demonstrate the scientific value of these activities.