ground- water, geo- statistics, environmental- engineering, earth- science

Archive for August, 2008

The Olympics are over. What remains?

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The Olympics are over. They are still, despite the doping problems, an awesome sports events. I did not get the chance to watch much due to the time difference between China and Germany. But I do have one favorite moment: the team table-tennis semi-finals between Germany and Japan. Such a close game, and so brilliant sports. Pictures connect and I just found this blog by the gang of Newsweek photo-journalists, some exceptional photographers, who covered the Olympics for their magazine. Shown below are some images related to water from those guys blog.

One of these Newsweek photographers, Donald Miralle, writes about one such cool moment, the 100m mens’ final. He describes how such moments remain cool moments, but the main characters fade away very soon:

[…] Peter Reid Miller of Sports Illustrated posed the question to me tonight before the start of the finals, “Do you even remember who won the 100 in Athens?” I was there, I shot it, I remember taking an OK frame of it, but for the life of me I couldn’t remember who won [It was Justin Gatlin of the U.S.–ED]. And you know why, after tonight NOBODY CARES. The athlete, whether it’s one of the Jamaicans or the American, will be on the front cover of every newspaper and Website for the next 24 hours. You won’t see them again in the headlines for another four years. Unless, that is, one of them tests positive for doping…

Besides sports, the Olympic games put the focus on China. Here in Germany, every day there was some report on something in China. This is, I think, how this relates to planetwater: So many people live in China, and there are so many environment-related problems. Some problems were created specifically because of the Olympics — the water for the white water canal had to come from somewhere, whereas everything in this area usually is rather dry. So these are some environmental problems related to the Olympics I am aware of:


  • water problems — this is only one example of many. And we will not talk about the Three Gorges Damn now.
  • air quality problems do exist (see also here) in Peking, for the Olympics cars were taken from the road (Spiegel a and b), and factories were shut down
  • there were health concerns before the start of the Olympics, I haven’t heard, seen, or read any about this after the start of the Olympics
  • there were big problems with algae in the water where the sailing and rowing events took place. The algae were removed by manual labour. These problems did not seem to exist during the Olympics

For the course of the Olympics, it seemed like those problems were handled (maybe not exactly solved) fairly well. But what about now? Factories can not be shut down for ever. And I would guess that the cars will push onto the streets again fairly soon. And the eye of the international media will not be there anymore, not to the extent as during the Olympics anyways. The human rights issues that exist in China were not ignored in “Olympic TV coverage”, and human rights are the basis for any human being:

Human Rights

  • two old women were sentenced to re-education camp after they tried to protest for not receiving sufficient compensation when their homes were seized for redevelopment. This story was picked up in Germany by the ZDF, and had prominent air time during two news broadcasts.
  • before the start of the Olympics people were given the right to speak out their opinions if they apply to do so. After the start of the Olympics it became clear that nobody was granted that right

Some people claim there is a set-back regarding human rights in China due to the Olympics. Who will report, not to speak of control, when the majority of the media is gone and TV time-slots are back to normal and away from China? And what will happen with and in Tibet? Nobody has talked about all those protests when the Olympic fire was in San Francisco and other places. What will happen to the people that wanted to demonstrate during the Olympics? Let’s hope things don’t get worse after the Olympics than they were before. How should human beings care for the environment or clean up environmental pollution, if their individual rights are not existent? I found this picture that captures the point of authors cited in this post here. Along the same lines follows the quote below by Sharon Hom, Executive Director of HRIC.

Saturday Rain

Every coin has two sides.

The carefully orchestrated facade could not conceal a police state that tramples on human rights.

Written by Claus

August 26th, 2008 at 1:46 am

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5 Really Weird Things About Water

with one comment has a post on “5 really weird things about water”. These 5 points are:

  1. Hot Water Freezes Faster Than Cold Water
  2. Supercooling and “Instant” Ice
  3. Glassy Water
  4. Quantum Properties of Water
  5. Does Water Have Memory? Bonus: Ice Spikes Bonus 2: Make Instant Snow with Boiling Water

Item 5 does a fairly good job in explaining how Homeopathy is supposedly working!

Written by Claus

August 23rd, 2008 at 8:02 am

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Rain on Saturdays

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Air temperatures in Germany vary with a weekly cycle: wednesdays are the warmest days, saturdays the coldest. These results were produced by Bernhard Vogel and Dominique Bäumer at the University of Karlsruhe, Germany, as is reported by Die Tageszeitung. They point out that this is not a local phenomenon, since they found the same phenomenon at fairly remote stations, in the German Alps for example. Additionally they argue that such a strict weekly phenomenon could not originate in nature, and they blame little particles in the air (aerosols) that are emitted mostly during work-days from factories and traffic. Similar results were subsequently found in China and in the USA.

Saturday Rain

Rain on Saturday

Die Tageszeitung proceeds to describe how this is not unanimously accepted in the scientific community. Harrie-Jan Hendricks Franssen from the ETH Zürich. He compared Swiss data from Zürich and Lugano with the German data used by Vogel and Bäumer, trying to figure out if precipitation and temperature behaved similarly in Switzerland as in Germany as reported by Vogel and Bäumer. Lugano is south of the Alps and hence should be influenced from different weather mechanismns than Germany. Additionally, Lugano is located in the vicinity of Milano, which exhibits Smog frequently.

Both Lugano and Zurich never showed a persistent weekly cycle for precipitation and sunshine duration for the investigated period. In addition, only 4 of the calculated 28 anomalies for the period 1991 – 2005 (2 stations x 2 variables x 7 weekdays) were statistically significant (statistically 1.4 anomalies are expected). Only one of the four statistically significant anomalies had the same sign as observed by BV07. The anomalies were analyzed further in a Monte Carlo study. The stochastic simulation experiments suggest that none of the anomalies was significant; even the largest anomaly (the anomaly of Saturday precipitation in Zurich of 18.0%) occurred in 9% of the experiments due to purely random effects. In addition, for 21% of the stochastic experiments a weekly cycle in precipitation in Zurich is found due to random effects.

Vogel and Bäumer respond on Hendrick’s finding in a comment published also in the Geophysical Research Letters. Die Tageszeitung points out that there are additional studies being conducted in Spain and in the USA, all to evaluate the role that aerosols in the air play related to weather. It’s great to see that sometimes research is well published in newspapers for the public!

Written by Claus

August 23rd, 2008 at 5:53 am

New Calendar

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I just finished installing a new calendar feature on planetwater, which was is being developed by WPCAL. This calendar will show you upcoming events that are related to the world of planetwater. On the sidebar, there is a new calendar. It’s called “Planetwater Events”. Below, in the section “Event Listing” you can see a list of the five next events. In the calendar, days with an event are marked red. You can hover your mouse over it, then you will see a short description of the event, or you can click on a red number representing a day, then you will see a more detailed description of the event. You can subscribe to the calendar in iCal (MacOS) or thunderbird by clicking on the rss symbol at the top of the calendar or by using this URL.

If you want me to add certain events, please let me know!

Fudging the Event Listing required some CSS, and I have no idea about CSS. So I googled and came up with this “solution”, however, I’m sure it’s damn ugly (especially the border part). I’d appreciate if somebody could point me to a better solution.

[code lang=”CSS”]

.ec3_list { display: inline; border: 5px solid white; }

.ec3_list li a { display: inline; }


By the way, thanks folks over at for pointing that out as well as many other useful hints!

Written by Claus

August 22nd, 2008 at 9:41 am

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World water week in Stockholm

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This week is World Water Week, an international conference held in Stockholm, Sweden. The motto for this year’s meeting is ”For a Clean and Healthy World” and the focus is on water, sanitation and development. The official website contains loads of interesting information.

Written by Patrick

August 18th, 2008 at 1:36 pm

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Will be back shortly

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Folks, I’ve recently tuned some internal settings of this blog — updated to a new version of the blogging engine (wordpress), looked into how this blog could be found more easily with major search engines, and I think this is working better now. Also I removed categories, and instead introduced and switched completely to tags. I think most of this tuning should be finished now, so I am confident there will be more posts coming up really soon. The recent stats look really promising! We’ve got some significant amount of readers now! Yay! One thing I want to work on is to get a more active readership! Why are you guys commenting so little? Come on now! 🙂

Seriously, do you have suggestions how to improve this?

Written by Claus

August 14th, 2008 at 9:42 am

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Cool Video

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I like it!

via veryspatial

Written by Claus

August 7th, 2008 at 1:03 am

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Where are the Honeybees?

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A couple of weekends ago I went with my girlfriend on a long guided tour through a forrest. We spent a few hours wondering around and exploring what’s crawling and living there: little bugs that are quite strong, different growing stages of trees, fungi and other living beings on dead trees. It turned out that the guy who gave the tour was a beekeeper. He made some delicious honey, trying to put a bee colony or two in the center of an area where mostly a certain type of tree grows. Say a kind of wild cherry tree. Then he sold that essentially authentic honey to us for a few Euros per 500g glass.

Fresh Honey

Honey - a delicious natural product!

A few things came to my mind: a) real honey is delicious and b) I have noticed quite a few insects this year (it’s warm and relatively moist), but very few honey bees. The cherry tree in our garden had extremely many flowers, but only about a quarter of the flowers turned into actual cherries.

I talked to some people, and after I asked them they all agreed, that they have noticed very few bees around this year. I started to look a bit around and found this scary blog post from “bootstrap analysis”: There is a pesticide called clothianidine, which is sold by the brand “Poncho” by Bayer, that is linked to the deaths of honeybees in 11,500 colonies. In early June, Germany halted the sale of Poncho, but in July the ban was lifted. There are similar other pesticides still on sale and being used, in Germany and in other parts of the world.

This is not directly linked to water (yet). But who knows the pathways? I guess reading “Silent Spring” is not enough. But what can you do? Not buy the corn that was planted using Bayers chemicals?

Update 27. August 2008: bootstrap analysis published an update on related pesticide issues and how we don’t learn from history

Written by Claus

August 4th, 2008 at 1:50 pm

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