Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Edward Wilson (1929-2021) - A storm in the Amazon

From "The diversity of life" 

"I sorted the memories this way and that in hope of stumbling on some pattern not obedient to abstract theory of textbooks. I would have been happy with any pattern. The best of science doesn't consist of mathematical models and experiments, as textbooks make it seem. Those come later. It springs fresh from a more primitive mode of thought, wherein the hunter's mind weaves ideas from old facts and fresh metaphors and the scrambled crazy images of things recently seen. ...

The storm grew until sheet lightning spread across the western sky. The thunderhead reared up like a top-heavy monster in slow motion, tilted forward, blotting out the stars. The forest erupted in a simulation of violent life. Lightning bolts broke to the front and then closer, to the right and left, 10,000 volts dropping along an ionizing path at 800 kilometers an hour, kicking a countersurge skyward ten times faster, back and forth in a split second, the whole perceived as a single flash and crack of sound. The wind freshened, and rain came stalking through the forest. In the midst of chaos something to the side caught my attention. The lightning bolts were acting like strobe flashes to illuminate the wall of the rain forest. At intervals I glimpsed the storied structure: top canopy 30 meters off the ground, middle trees spread raggedly below that, and a lowermost scattering of shrubs and small trees. The forest was framed for a few moments in this theatrical setting. Its image turned surreal, projected into the unbounded wildness of the human imagination, thrown back in time 10,000 years. Somewhere close I knew spear-nosed bats flew through the tree crowns in search of fruit, palm vipers coiled in ambush in the roots of orchids, jaguars walked the river's edge; around them eight hundred species of trees stood, more than are native to all of North America; and a thousand species of butterflies, 6 percent of the entire world fauna, waited for the dawn.


The storm arrived, racing from the forest's edge, turning from scattered splashing drops into sheets of water driven by gusts of wind. It forced me back to the shelter of the corrugated iron roof of the open-air living quarters, where I sat and waited with the mateiros. The men stripped off their clothing and walked out into the open, soaping and rinsing themselves in the torrential rain, laughing and singing. In bizarre counterpoint, leptodactylid frogs struck up a loud and monotonous honking on the forest floor close by. They were all around us. I wondered where they had been during the day. I had never encountered a single one while sifting through the vegetation and rotting debris on sunny days, in habitats they are supposed to prefer. "

Edward O. Wilson, The Diversity of life, Penguin

Monday, December 27, 2021

DARTH4MED - A Digital eARth Twin of Hydrology for the prediction of water scarcity in the Mediterranean area

The DARTH4MED, D4M for short, project aims to be a high resolution twin of the hydrology and carbon cycle of the Italian peninsula. It is based on Po, WATZON and WATERSTEM projects, making treasure of previous modelling efforts like GEOtop and the GEOframe system, and GIS tools implementations like Jgrass and the Horton Machine toolbox. It builds upon state-of-art hydrological modelling case studies of various catchment sizes, from hillslope to Po and Blue Nile. It also draws on experiences in IT applied to hydrology with developments of the object modelling system, OMS.

D4M gives substance, both technical and scientific, to the Digital Earth metaphor and exploits it to improve the work of scientists and professionals, and to support open science. It aims to provide a shared infrastructure usable by scientists and users to investigate the processes involved in the water, energy and carbon budgets, WB, EB and CB, at a very fine spatial and temporal scale, 1 km2, hourly.

The GEOframe system already contains a sophisticated and complete set of modelling components, constituting a solid basis of comparison for innovative developments. Open API and training will be offered to anyone to advance the mathematical, statistical and numerical descriptions of hydrological and eco-hydrological processes with little programming effort. From this perspective, the project will be an experiment in participatory science, since the tools developed could be improved and given back by collaborative researchers. The method of multiple hypothesis testing will be the rule of scientific endeavour.

The core of the system will manage the interactions of groundwater, vadose zone, surface water, snow, vegetation, atmosphere, usually analyzed separately, and join them seamlessly in the continuum containing the feedbacks among the parts. On these bases researchers will be able to evaluate climate, hydrologic, pedological, ecological droughts.

D4M has several primary objectives, listed below:
  • To provide the core of a DE, defined as a Digital eARth Twin Hydrology system (a DARTH), to do hydrology by computer, with an infrastructure that allows partecipative hydrology and makes Earth system science practice easier for all the Italian Peninsula.
  • To improve the modelling of the water budget, WB, energy budget, EB, Vegetation and Carbon Cycle.
  • To provide forecasts for several variables, as detailed in the Synopsis.
  • To resolve some research questions, as presented in the Synopsis.
  • To give researchers sound tools on which to base their analysis of climate, hydrologic, pedological, ecological and agronomic droughts.
  • To provide a high level of abstraction and encapsulation for modelling services, so to allow improvements to parts of the DARTHs by anyone without disrupting the whole.
  • To give API and web services to final users, researchers, technical professionals, programmers, to connect their studies and products to the whole D4M, thus combatting the fragmentation of hydrological modelling through a participatory open platform.
Besides efficient algorithms, the effort will require the smart implementation of parallel computing infrastructures, which will remain mostly invisible to the users. All the infrastructure will be open source, built with open source tools and provided with open data.

The project was just submitted for the FIS call. Here below you find the proposal and the relevant annexes.
Compressing all the ideas in such a few words was quite difficult and the platform on which we had to upload the material with some issues (non accepting, for instance "()[]-/" and other characters. Some requirements quite stupid. The selection will be great. I obviously think that the gain for the country with such a project really great. Finger crossed and, if there are better projects, hope they'll win. 

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

DARTHs (Digital eARth Twin Hydrology systems)

There is a great hype about Digital Earth Twins (DETs) and EU, ESA, NASA and other institutions issue calls for building such IT infrastructures (ITI). This paper face the topic from a point of view of hydrologists who are concerned with the science content of these ITI. The Authors see in DETs an opportunity to make easier the work of scientists and professionals. However they claim that some aspect of making science should be respected. Mainly they are the hypothesis testing and estimation of errors in hindcasting or forecasting. Beside, the Authors claim that building a DET for Hydrology (called DARTH) is an enterprise that implies some choices about the implementation of models and of the infrastructure. DARTHs are not in fact just "models" and have requirements that need to be satisfied. Finally the Authors support the opinion of an open science oriented implementation of these ITI that also allows the participatory action of all the scientists that like to contribute (and look with suspect to science processing where just a few contribute to the core science). In turn also this options has requirements that should be reflected in the implementation.
To sum up, the Authors think that this is the right moment to push these ideas and desire to open a discussion with other colleagues. 

Final published paper: 

You can find the manuscript submitted to HESS discussions HESSD at the moment in our OSF repository, here.  

UPDATE: The paper had a positive first round of reviews that you can see here.  Below, please find the revised text with the supplemental material. 

Final published paper: