Master class 2008

Master Class “Hydrologic Science for an Ever Changing World: Search for New Hydrologic Concepts, Theories, Models and Practices”

Boussinesq Center Workshop and Master Class In Partnership with the University of Illinois Hydrologic Synthesis Activity and the IAHS Predictions in Ungauged Basins (PUB) initiative

Date: June 23-25, 2008
Organised by: Delft University of Technology

Over the past ten years there has been increasing dissatisfaction with the status of current theories of hydrology, and the way hydrology is taught and practiced. These concerns stem from increasing recognition of our inability to make robust predictions of the water cycle at all scales, especially in the context of global change: climate change, human-induced land use changes, and human interferences in the water cycle. There is also recognition of a developing global water crisis, which is intimately linked to a developing global food crisis and energy crisis, and of course the now established climate change crisis. There is a growing concern that hydrologists’ narrow training and focus are preventing us from playing an important role in preventing and alleviating these global crises. Increasingly these problems are regional and global, and the traditional hydrologists’ focus on local and low-dimensional problems and related scientific issues must give way to a broader, complex, highly inter-connected and inter-disciplinary treatment of water at all scales and in a variety of contexts. There has been increasing calls for a new hydrology, and for new concepts and theories upon which to build this new hydrology, so that we will be better positioned to address these and related problems, and in this way maintain and enrich hydrology as an exciting and policy relevant science. Some common themes emerging in related discussion over the past decade include, (i) merging the traditional reductionist (bottom-up) and systems (top-down) perspectives to build towards a more functional approach to hydrology, (ii) more emphasis on global, comparative hydrology, including a focus on classification and similarity, (iii) watersheds as ecosystems and the key role of biosphere-hydrosphere interactions at all scales, (iv) inter-disciplinary: broadening the base of hydrology through embedding concepts from those sister disciplines that deal with or are affected by the presence and/or movement of water, (v) explicit inclusion of human-nature interactions and feedbacks at all scales, (vi) concepts of sustainability, and management of watershed/ecosystem services, (vii) new approaches to measurement and observations, data organization and analysis, (viii) new approaches to modeling, combining traditional approaches based on Newtonian mechanics with new approaches that embed evolutionary perspectives that underpin the self-organization and co-evolution of climate, soils, vegetation and topography, (ix) renewed emphases on predictions and decisions with inadequate data with explicit treatment of all forms of uncertainty, and (x) a merging of different forms of learning: from fundamental theories, from observations and from applications.