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

Archive for March, 2009

Map of Knowledge

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The New York Times posted a “Map of Knowledge“:

There are a variety of disciplines, including Hydrology, Geology, Minerology (maybe Mineralogy), and Statistics. I am not sure why the first three all are at the very edge of the map, and not connected. The original source of the map is at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. Neither am I sure what all the dots really represent. This might give a rough idea:

It is based on electronic data searches in which users moved from one journal to another, thus establishing associations between them.

Written by Claus

March 19th, 2009 at 8:05 am

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This is for german folks mostly: The Vieweg+Teubner publishing company is going to put a “Branchenindex Energie- und Umwelttechnik” online. My understanding is that this will be an online database containing addresses of companies in the fields of water-/sanitary- engineering, recycling, and renewable engery. Supposedly the service will be online starting in May 2009.

See announcement and main site.

Written by Claus

March 18th, 2009 at 5:26 pm

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“Easy Water is Over”

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This morning, I was looking for news about the worldwaterforum on webpages of german newspapers, and up-to-date reports I found only at “Die Tageszeitung”:

  • a report on the first day stating how everybody agrees that water resources are scarce (and valuable). It is also reported how the UN acknowledges that governments do not or will not have sufficient money to support water-related infrastructure. The UN is reported to ask private companies to fill that gap and act as drinking water providers. Current object of debate seem to be large dams:
  • Die Tageszeitung also reports how two people who enrolled a poster with the words “no riski damns” were escorted by police out of the venue of the congress, held in custody over night unsure about the reasons of the custody, and finally sent back to their home-countries, Germany and USA.
  • a summary of the two above at 20 minuten
  • The Frankfurter Rundschau on some technical innovations related to sanitary engineering

Despite the lack of current news, there are currently a plethora of water-related articles in german newspapers:

A google search on “Wasserforum Istanbul” resulted in surprisingly few results on current news from Istanbul. I guess I am biased, but still I think news from the worldwaterforum are critical news. There has been a lot of debate recently on the future of newspapers. And a lot of newspapers have been dying. I agree with a quote o Cem Basman’s blog, originally by Clay Shirky:

“Society doesn’t need newspapers. What we need is journalism.”

Are you reading daily news? Where?

Written by Claus

March 18th, 2009 at 8:28 am

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World Water Forum Istanbul

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Currently, the 5th World Water Forum takes place in Istanbul. Its subtitle is “Bridging Divides for Water” hinting at the necessary turning point for water resources: making drinking water available for everybody. It seems like the geographic location of Istanbul might be a proper choice for that theme. There are six main themes, around which sessions are grouped: “Global Change and Risk Management”, “Advancing Human Development and the MDGs”, “Managing and Protecting Water Resources”, “Governance & Management”, “Finance”, and “Education, Knowledge and Capacity Development”.

Additionally, there is a big exposition with booths from participating countries and companies. There are “high level panels” on “water and disasters”, on “local financing”, on “water, food, and energy”, on “sanitation”, and on “water and climate change”.

The main webpage is huge, and it is a little hard to find out what is happening where. It seems like a huge congress though. It will be interesting to see what the outcomes are! The Guardian reports on the congress and on protesters. The article quotes Maude Barlow, recipient of the 2005 Right Livelihood Award and chairperson of The Council of Canadians:

It’s organised to look like a UN-type event but it’s not. […] It’s really just a big trade show put on by the big water companies. There is going to be no mention of water as a human right. They don’t want to support that because they see water as a commodity to be sold on the open market. There is mounting evidence that privatisation has failed. We believe water should be a public trust.

Maude Barlow is also member of the organizing committe of the “Alternative Water Forum“, which also takes currently place (March 20 to 22), also in Istanbul.

Written by Claus

March 17th, 2009 at 8:17 am

Beijing Revisited

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I had written previously about the environmental conditions during the Olympics in Beijing. Real Climate points to a study which compared NO2 levels in the atmosphere in China before and during the Olympics. China had announced to regulate pollution more strict during the Olympics than before or after.

Real Climate reports:

The team at GSFC have released preliminary images (here and here) from the NO2 analysis showing the before and during the pollution controls. In both images, Beijing shows up as a huge hotspot of pollution, but relatively, the levels during the Olympics were significantly smaller:

NO2 Concentrations Beijing

NO2 concentration before and during the Olympics

August 2008 levels were therefore about 50% less than a similar period the year before. Meanwhile values at other hotspots in China were steady or got even worse. So there was a significant effect, but the scale of the task was indeed Olympian.

Written by Claus

March 16th, 2009 at 8:50 am

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RSS Feeds Updated

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I changed the links of the RSS feeds of this blog. The new addresses are: – for the posts: – for the comments:

Please update your RSS readers! I am sorry for any inconvenience this might cause!

Written by Claus

March 15th, 2009 at 9:54 am

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Recently, I ran into the word geoengineering quite frequently. I kind of thought of it as a form of geotechnical engineering, but it seemed like the things that were talked about had not very much to do with geotechnical engineering.

This blog post will try and shed some light into what geoengineering implies. As [wikipedia][1] points out right at the start of its article on “geoengineering“, this term is not to be confused with “geotechnical engineering”! To keep confusion at a minimum level, let’s start with some definitions:


To clarify things, here are a few related important definitions from wikipedia:

Geoengineering: manipulate the Earth’s climate to counteract the effects of global warming from greenhouse gas emissions.

Planetary engineering is the application of technology for the purpose of influencing the global properties of a planet. The goal of this theoretical task is usually to make other worlds habitable for life. Geoengineering ti the application of planetary engineering techniques to Earth.

Terraforming is a type of planetary engineering by which a planet’s surface conditions are altered to be more like those of Earth

Geotechnical Engineering is the branch of civil engineering concerned with the engineering behavior of earth materials


One of the blog posts I came across recently which talk about geoengineering was a post by Miriam Goldstein at The Oyster’s Garter. She discusses the risks and benefits of geoengineering, especially a type of geoengineering called “iron fertilization”. This proposal involves “deliberately stimulating plant growth in the ocean with the aim that the excess material will be permanently sequestered in the deep sea. This would remove carbon from the atmosphere”. For German speaking readers, here is a nice summary. Other types of geoengineering she discusses include stratospheric aerosols, cloud whitening, atmospheric carbon capture, and geochemical carbon capture.

Probably, Miriam is talking about the same iron fertilization project as the german news-magazin “Der Spiegel” in its article from January 14th, 2009. “Der Spiegel” reported then that the project has been halted due to “environmental concerns” – the same concerns which have been raised by Miriram. On January 27th, the german federal research ministry allowed the Polarstern to conduct the experiment (see also this report). The AWI already posted first measurement results. I am not a remote sensing expert, but I kind of believe this map showing that more algae live in the area where the iron was put into the ocean. However, the total range of chlorophyll concentration on the map is from 0.1mg/m3 to 3mg/m3. That’s one order of magnitude. Map taken from here

Alternative Text

Map showing chlorophyll a concentration in the ocean at the are where iron was applied (circled) and in the vicinity of that area.

Another set of measurements made available by the Alfred Wegener Institute are depth profiles of dissolved oxygen, silicate, ammonium and chlorophyll taken at two different moments in time: before the iron was put in place and four days after. Again, I am not a biologist or oceanologist, but the changes do not seem extremely high. But then, it’s only after four days.

Concentration Profiles

Concentration profiles of relevant aqueous concentrations before (red) and after (blue) the iron was brought out.

To conclude, I guess it’s too early to conclude if the experiment was successful or not. However, it seems a very risky and monetary intensive experiment.

Here are two more posts dealing with geoengineering:

  • James Hrynyshyn at “Living on an Island of Doubt in a climate of change” posts some similar doubtful concerns about the effectivity of geoengineering. He writes:

    As Lenton and Vaughan write, geoengineering really only makes sense as a part of a larger strategy that includes cutting back hard on greenhouse gas emissions.

  • Wired reports on a “Carbon Burial” project, also referred to as “geological sequestration”, that will deposit a million metric tons of carbon dioxide into the ground by 2012. This is such a hot topic, it probably deserves an individual post.

After all these novel approaches, an interesting side-node from some classic geotechnical engineering, with an interesting outcome – Wired reports:

Drillers accidentally hit a pocket of molten rock underneath a working geothermal energy field in Hawaii, a lucky break for geologists that could allow them to map the geological plumbing that created everything we know as land.

update Wednesday; April 15, 2009: Wired has an article from a researcher on board a boat in the southern ocean.

Written by Claus

March 15th, 2009 at 9:40 am

Water Photography

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Balazs Gardi is the winner of the “Pictures of the Year International” competition in the category “Global Vision Award“.

Water by Gardi

Winning photograph at the Pictures of the Year International Competition.

From a description of his work:

My project aims to examine the lives of people directly impacted by these developments, to search for solutions and coping strategies, and to encourage reflection on an issue of global scale that requires concerted local action.

Check out more pictures at

Written by Claus

March 4th, 2009 at 1:02 am

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