Friday, 25 July 2014

Royal Meteorological Society members visit CEH

Members of the Royal Meteorological Society's Meteorological Observing Systems Special Interest Group have paid a visit to CEH to learn more about aspects of our monitoring work. The visitors were given a tour of our Meteorological Station at Wallingford (thankfully the weather was warm and sunny at the time!) and also heard more details about its history and observations from site manager Katie Muchan:




The visitors also heard a presentation from Dr Gareth Old about CEH's River Lambourn Observatory and research into chalk river systems:




Dr Jonathan Evans of CEH also presented on progress and early results from COSMOS-UK, the UK soil moisture monitoring network. The network will deliver real-time weather monitoring and field scale measurements of soil moisture across the United Kingdom.

Members of the RMetS Special Interest Group on Meteorological Observing Systems visit
CEH's Wallingford Meteorological Station, July 2014. Photo: Paul Fisher/ CEH


Further reading


Winter 2013/2014 rainfall records at CEH's Wallingford meteorological station 

A window on weather conditions at Wallingford

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Surface water flood risk forecasting system operational in Glasgow as Commonwealth Games begin

As the 2014 Commonwealth Games get underway in Glasgow today (23 July 2014), organisers are probably hoping the next two weeks will stay dry and pleasant for everyone travelling to and from the various locations being used across the city. However, they’ll still be interested in the news that the Glasgow surface water flood forecasting model became operational this month – thought to provide the UK’s first operational grid-based surface water flood risk forecast with a 24-hour lead time.

Surface water flooding occurs when rainfall is unable to enter a watercourse or artificial drainage system and instead ponds or flows across the surface. In Scotland, the National Flood Risk Assessment (NFRA) estimates that 38% of flooding impacts are due to surface water (NFRA, 2011). Providing real-time surface water flood risk forecasts is challenging due to the dominant meteorological driver being convective storms, which are often highly localised and notoriously difficult to forecast.

Hampden Park, Glasgow
Hampden Park is one of the venues for the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.
Photo by Jmorrison230582 in public domain.

The new surface water flood risk forecasting system has been developed by the Scottish Flood Forecasting Service (a strategic partnership between the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) and the Met Office), working with the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH), Deltares and James Hutton Institute. The system builds on complementary CEH research on surface water flooding that is co-funded by the Environment Agency and undertaken within the Natural Hazards Partnership.

CEH’s Grid-to-Grid model (Moore et al., 2006, 2007; Bell et al., 2009) is a key component of the new tool. CEH scientists Bob Moore and Steve Cole provided pre-operational training in the system to SEPA and Met Office staff.

Steve Cole highlighted that, “Due to high uncertainty in forecasting the precise location of rainfall, particularly in convective situations, a probabilistic ensemble approach has been needed for the new Glasgow surface water flood risk forecast tool. A particularly novel aspect is that the tool goes beyond forecasting the likely location of surface water flooding to embrace information on potential impacts on people, property and transport. This should help emergency responders make more timely and better informed decisions.”

Further information on the new system is available from the Scottish Flood Forecasting Service, who provide regular progress updates:


More information on the Centre of Expertise for Waters (CREW) project

Surface water flood forecasting for urban communities
 

Monday, 21 July 2014

International Hydrology in UNESCO: recent developments and future plans

The Intergovernmental Council of UNESCO’s International Hydrological Programme met in Paris for its 21st Session last month (June 2014). Professor Alan Jenkins and Dr Harry Dixon of the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH) were both in attendance. The Council meets every two years to consider the Programme’s current progress and future plans.


Representatives of more than 90 Member States were joined by representatives of UNESCO Water Centres, other UN organizations and NGOs to discuss progress with what is the only intergovernmental programme of the UN system devoted to water research, water resources management, and education and capacity building.

Prof Jenkins chairs the UK Committee for National and International Hydrology, which has its secretariat at CEH and which coordinates the UK contribution to UNESCO’s International Hydrological Programme. As such, Prof Jenkins headed the UK delegation to the recent Council session, supported by Dr Dixon and the UK’s Permanent Delegation to UNESCO. Prof. Geoffrey Gooch (University of Dundee) also attended representing the Centre for Water Law, Policy and Science, a Category 2 Centre under the auspices of UNESCO, based at the University of Dundee.


As has been the case previously, this year’s Council session was scheduled to directly follow the IAHS/UNESCO 11th Kovacs Colloquium. This allows the Council’s debates to be informed by the science presented and discussed at the Colloquium - which this year focused on “Water Security: Past, Present and Future”.

With its eighth phase, ‘Water Security: Responses to Local, Regional, and Global Challenges’, due to run from 2014 to 2021, a large element of this year’s Council Session was devoted to the forward planning of the Programme. Plans for implementing activities under IHP-VIII’s six Themes were outlined and more details of these can be found on the UNESCO website.  A proposal to establish a ‘World’s Large Rivers Initiative’ was approved and the Council took steps to implement a review of all other IHP Programmes and initiatives over coming years to ensure they best meet the needs of Member States.

Infographic showing six main themes of IHP-VIII on water security
Main themes of IHP-VIII: Water security - responses to local, regional, and global challenges (2014-2021)

Discussions regarding the Post-2015 development agenda for water concluded with the adoption of a Resolution recommending that the IHP work with UN-Water partners to develop a monitoring and assessment framework to support the implementation of any water related goals and targets.

Further information about the IHP can be found on the UNESCO website.

Related CEH links


Staff page of Prof Alan Jenkins

Staff page of Dr Harry Dixon

CEH news: CEH plays key role in UK election to Intergovernmental Council of UNESCO's International Hydrological Programme 

Further information about the UK's involvement in the UNESCO International Hydrological Programme

Monday, 14 July 2014

Mapping natural capital

A presentation from the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH) on mapping natural capital. In the first section, Dr Lisa Norton talks about modelling approaches using site survey for national scale mapping, explaining why natural capital is mapped and how it is useful for land managers, with examples including Countryside Survey and the UK Soil Observatory.

In the second part of the talk, John Watkins of CEH focuses on the Ecomaps application, which will enable researchers to take such work forward.






Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Reflections on #BRC50

For those who couldn't attend the BRC 50th anniversary celebrations in June 2014, our Storify articles gather most of the tweets and photos from the event. Not quite the same as being there, but at least it gives a flavour of the atmosphere and talks! Many thanks to all who attended and who helped to make it such a memorable event.

Day One




Day Two




Day Three (Field Trip to Salisbury Plain)



And finally, some birthday wishes from the other side of the world!



More links


There are a few more #BRC50 photos in our Flickr album

You can freely download the PDF of the BRC50 booklet.


Posted by Paulette

Friday, 27 June 2014

50 years of the Biological Records Centre


You can see a complete version of this infographic in the booklet Celebrating 50 years of the Biological Records Centre, available as a PDF (6.6mb).

Read more about the history of BRC in our blog post, and news of its anniversary symposium in Bath.

The Biological Records Centre is 50 years old!

This year the Biological Records Centre (BRC), based within the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, celebrates its 50th anniversary. A celebratory symposium is being held in Bath this week, and birthday cake will be eaten by past and present staff members, as well as a wide range of people who have been associated with BRC over the last five decades.




It's a good time to look back at why the Biological Records Centre came into existence, and why it is still relevant today.

A rich history of biological recording

In the late 17th century the Catalogus Plantarum Angliae was published. Written by Essex
naturalist John Ray, it was effectively the first catalogue of English plants, drawing on observations from his friends. By the 18th century natural history societies had begun to form across the country which focused on species identification and documenting their distribution. These societies attracted a wide range of members ranging from the self-educated to the academically qualified, a mix that continues to this day.

Plants and data processing 

During the first half of the 20th century there were several attempts at creating a national overview of British species, particularly for plants. Plans for a national plant atlas were published in 1940 but delayed by World War Two. Post-war, both the British Association (in 1947) and the Botanical Society of the British Isles conference (in 1950) resolved to map British (and Irish) species and finally, in 1954, the BSBI’s Atlas of the British Flora project was launched with funding from the Nuffield Foundation, and later from the then recently established Nature Conservancy,

Former head of BRC Paul Harding commented recently:
“The atlas (of the British Flora) aimed to record, and map, each species of vascular plant in the 10km squares of the Ordnance Survey National Grid. Perhaps the most critical aspect of the project was the adoption of data processing equipment using punched cards. This enabled 1.5 million records to be sorted and mapped mechanically and the use of information technology became integral to biological recording.”
An international impact on biological recording

Building on the Plant atlas and the mapping skills developed, the Biological Records Centre was established at Monks Wood, Cambridgeshire in 1964, with Franklyn Perring as its head. Over the years BRC has grown, and moved (to Wallingford, Oxfordshire in 2008), and its work has had, and continues to have, an international impact on biological recording.

Professor William Sutherland, the Miriam Rothschild Professor of Conservation Biology at the University of Cambridge recently wrote:

“The BRC has been central to much of UK conservation practice and research. The work on climate change impacts on distribution patterns is especially well known. The detailed distribution information means the BRC is central to much of the routine conservation practice in determining priorities and assessing possible threats. The BRC has also been fundamental to the National Biodiversity Network Gateway, an ambitious plan to bring together the main sources of UK biodiversity information.”

Current priorities

Looking forward, Dr David Roy, the current head of BRC, told me that current BRC priorities include:

  • Maintaining existing capacity for recording species across a broad range of taxonomic groups to provide the evidence needed to tackle ongoing environmental issues.
  • Sustaining partnerships with expert naturalists to help this capacity to grow and adapt, thus increasing the value of biological recording for understanding environmental change.
  • Making innovative use of technology and analytical methods, plus integration with other data sources on the ecology of species and the physical environment to enhance the value of recording data.

Happy Birthday BRC. We look forward to your 100th anniversary celebration in 2064!



Barnaby Smith, Media Relations Manager 


Related links

Biological Records Centre website

CEH News: Biological Records Centre, pioneer of citizen science, celebrates 50th anniversary 

Celebrating 50 years of the Biological Records Centre [PDF, 6.62mb]