Add one more name to the list of institutions negatively impacted by the global financial crisis: water measurement. According to new research regarding the planet’s hydrological cycle, there are a significant amount of uncertainties regarding water estimates, and one of the main reasons is the large scale closing down of measurement stations around the world.
In South America alone, between 1989 and 2006, the number of measuring stations went from 4267 to 390. The biggest reason for these closings seems to be budget cuts. In addition, according to Christof Lorenz and Harald Kunstmann, from the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology and the Institute for Meteorology and Climate Research in Germany, there are discrepancies between ocean and atmosphere models and precipitation and temperature estimates during this same time period. When you add all these factors together, their research points to a need for more research (and funding) into global atmosphere and ocean models.
The models make use of historical observation data from around the world of both the water system and the weather. Many scientists warn about the limitations of such models, which are sometimes used to make climate trend calculations and predictions. Laurenz and Kunstmann share this call for proceeding with caution, due, among other reasons, to clear imbalances in hydrological data.
At a time where the international community seeks more and better information in order to be ready for whatever atmospheric and oceanic changes that will come, the need for good and thoroughly tested models is clear. The practice of underfunding or closing down measurement stations around the world, is mind boggling.
Photo: ell brown / flickr
Reference: Christof Lorenz, & Harald Kunstmann (2012). The Hydrological Cycle in Three State-of-the-art Reanalyses: Intercomparison and Performance Analysis Journal of Hydrometeorology DOI: 10.1175/JHM-D-11-088.1