Look mama. No hands! or When did hydrology become computer science?

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Interdsiciplinary research in water, development and sustainability

When did hydrology become computer science?

There was once a time when all hydrology was field hydrology. Rating curves, pan evaporation, curve numbers, unit hydrographs were actually derived from field data. Run-off coefficients were obtained from paired catchment studies.

At some point (maybe in the 1970s?), people seem to have declared that the field of hydrology had become a mature field. There were no more discoveries left to be made. The next exciting phase for the field was to harness the massive computational power unleashed by computers of ever increasing power. Indeed, computers generated many exciting possibilities and made large scale river basin modelling possible.

In reality, modelling is more art than science. Models are highly dependent on assumptions or parameters. For instance, we know in theory, that stream flow depends on stream roughness or soil hydraulic parameters, in practice, we can never measure the roughness in every section of the stream or the soil…

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