ERCIM News No.39 - October 1999

Environmental Modelling

by Achim Sydow

The purpose of the ERCIM Working Group Environmental Modelling is to build and maintain a network of ERCIM researchers in the field of environmental modelling and simulation. The working group is open to anybody affiliated with an ERCIM institute and dealing with environmental research. Since its establishment in 1995, the working group has undertaken a variety of activities in order to promote the cooperation and joint research activities of groups working in the field of environmental modelling and simulation.

The research subject of the Working Group are environmental systems consisting of geophysical and geochemical elements, abiotic factor complexes (atmosphere, hydrosphere, pedosphere) and biotic elements (growth processes, population dynamics) which represent real complex systems. Information technology has succeeded in developing adequate tools for modelling, simulation, planning and decision support for environmental protection. As a result, education aimed toward transmitting an understanding of environmental systems is nowadays unthinkable without the use of computer techniques.

Considerable progress has been reached in a number of different research areas:
• in theoretical areas, the use of High Performance Computing simulation has brought spectacular results in systems dynamics (evolution strategies, logistic growth, chaos research)
• in climate research, the long term analysis of global change
• in economics and ecology, the considerations of sustainable development
• in mathematics, the development of powerful algorithms for integration and decomposition methods for parallelisation.

Simulated dispersion of Chlorine after an accidental release in the Swiss Reuss Valley.

Interdisciplinary cooperation has benefited from computer networking. Parallel computation greatly assists in the efficient analysis of large scale and complex environmental systems. Weather and ozone forecasts are based on parallel computation. Visualisation techniques allow comprehensive overviews and thus assist decision support. Simulation gives numerical insight into the behaviour of complex environmental systems. Intelligent information technologies (neuronal nets, evolution strategies, expert systems) support modelling should relevant background structures from the natural sciences be unavailable. These information technologies can also assist data mining. Algorithms for optimisation and poly-optimisation provide a helpful aid for dealing with conflict situations which can evolve between the areas of ecology, economics and the needs of society.

The DECAIR Project

To date, the ERCIM Working Group Environmental Modelling has carried out five workshops. The sixth workshop is already in its preparation phase. Moreover the Working Group has submitted three joint project proposals. The joint project DECAIR (Development of an Earth Observation Data Converter with Application to Air Quality Forecast) is funded within the Environment and Climate Programme of the European Commission.

The DECAIR project aims to encourage the use of Earth Observation (EO) data as input data to atmospheric and air quality models, in order to achieve better simulation and forecast results. It is intended to develop a demonstrator used in a pre-operational context on two application sites: the urban areas of Berlin and Madrid. The specification of the demonstrator is performed by the customers in terms of data constraints (resolution, accuracy, freshness) and data access.

The demonstrator consists of the integration of different modules, some being already developed and tested by the members of the consortium. This integration process is the key aspect of the system and is flexible enough to take into account customers needs all along the development and exploitation stages, and to manage the risks of failure. The genericity is also an important matter: the system must be easily adapted to incorporate new converted EO data, and to be used for other simulation purposes. As DECAIR’s objectives are concentrated on EO data conversion into air quality models data, this problem is addressed through the collaboration with existing European Commissiom projects, especially within the Telematics Programme.

An applicant has been accepted for the first ERCIM Fellowship within the framework of the Working Group Environmental Modelling. He had started his fellowship at the Working Group member team of INRIA Roquencourt on June 1998 and from March 1999 he has continued his fellowship at the GMD Institute for Computer Architecture and Software Technology in Berlin.

The fifth workshop of the Working Group Environmental Modelling, dedicated to Information Systems for Environmental Modelling, was held on 3-4 June, 1999. It was organized by INRIA and hosted in Palais des Congrès, Versailles, France. The workshop attracted some 20 participants from six countries. The lectures and discussions focused on applications of information system technology for air quality monitoring, coastal zone management, hydrology and climate. The sixth workshop is planned for March 2000 and will be organised by Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, United Kingdom. The sixth workshop will deal with problems of data management related to environmental modelling such as data mining, data access through the Internet, coupling of models and data bases, updating of model calculation during run-time, etc.

In the near future, the initialisation of a new joint project will play a major role in the Working Group. First discussions about a new project took place at the fifth workshop in Versailles. The idea of developing a simulation framework for environmental applications received main attention. Such a framework should allow the coupling of different environmental models for defined application problems using the so- called model-bus concept with a generic communication interface.

To date, members from eleven research teams of ERCIM institutions in eight European countries are collaborating within the Working Group. Based on an evaluation of the ERCIM Working Groups’ achievements during 1998, the ERCIM Executive Committee selected the ERCIM Working Group Environmental Modelling as one of the winners of the ERCIM Working Group Award for 1998.


ERCIM Working Group Environmental Modelling: http://wwwold.first.fraunhofer.de/ercim

Please contact:

Achim Sydow - GMD
Tel: +49 30 6392 1813
E-mail: sydow@first.gmd.de

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