Hydrological Sciences

Timeless times, cosmos and hydrology

Timeless times, cosmos and hydrology
Close your eyes. What time is it? Is it still Tuesday? Oh, the calendar… Has 2021  started already? And, how are you? Yes, you! Sincerely asking, how are you?

To anyone asking this question, the expected reply is usually simple and short. Nothing complicated here – you are either feeling good or bad (although some fuzziness is kindly welcome too). Personally, I often opt for a deep and detailed reply. Yet, many people just don’t, and, then, I sometimes also end up saying “I am well, how are you?” In this post, however, I would like to share my long reply.

In fact I was planning on writing a post on a completely different topic for this blog (specifically, a post on WMO Data Conference and Resolution 42). Then, a super powerful inspiration hit me, and I ended up writing this surprise piece first. I just couldn’t ignore the sentences flowing into my mind. Now, here you are, reading them; I hope you’ll enjoy it!

We are often limited when it comes to talking about how we are and how we are feeling, about life, and everything.

We are always in a rush, with many other subjects taking the highest ranks in our daily social and work-related conversations. Most of the time we have our minds elsewhere, and not focused on ourselves. The content we consume is always busy, and it changes so quickly: kids, deadlines, black Friday, AGU 2020, covid-19, Christmas, that manuscript in review, weather, and so much more! If you are reading this post, for instance, it is probably that you are focusing on vEGU21, your work and hydrology. Am I right? Just be patient; more hydrology-related content is coming up!

But what if you first take a moment to reflect deeper on how you feel from a “neutral observer” perspective?

What if you space out to listen to your inner self despite the world running outside, and just watch your thoughts fly by as things happen? As Megan Watzke, the author of the book ” Light from the Void: Twenty Years of Discovery with NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory“, says: “If you need a break from the barrage of daily news, take a few minutes and remember the blissful indifference of space. Stars are being born, supernovas are spreading elements, and black holes are doing their thing.” To start with, you can check out this page for some glorious images taken by the Chandra Telescope.


Coming back to that long reply I wanted to share with you: I completely lost my perception of time in 2020. Waking up to a new day in the mornings feels like yesterday was centuries ago. And the day never ends – it feels so long. Then, the whole week just flies by in the blink of an eye.

Do you sometimes have this inconsistent and contradictory perception of time too? Have you ever wondered about time? What is time? The sun, the moon, day and night… Why is life on Earth dependent on a linear time scale? What about the definition of time beyond our comprehension? The Cosmos and the time, and we humans living on Earth, doing science…

Earth is old, very old – the science tells us based on the Gregorian calendar introduced in 1582 by Pope Gregory XIII. I met Earth and the humanity early summer 1987. Since young ages, I have always been very organized when it comes to manage my time (non-sleeping hours). I was often well known by my fancy and cute agendas and daily planners. In my twenties, knowing and planning the time was very important to me. Then, in my thirties, things have changed. My perception of time slowly got a bit more complicated. As of 2020, I completely lost it!

As the first 20 years of millennium is just about to end, I am sincerely questioning the concept of time. This brought up reflections on the role of Earth and humans in Cosmos.


A galaxy is a gravitationally bound entity, typically consisting of dark matter, gas, dust and stars.” The Universe is populated by galaxies that reside in clusters and groups. In the observable Universe, there are over 100 billion galaxies. Our home galaxy, the Milky Way is a large spiral system of about several hundred billion stars, one of which is the Sun.

Earth has been out there for a very long time. From Big Bang (13.8 billion years ago) to Pangea (about 300 million years ago), and to all the seven continents of today. Life on Earth dates back to as early as 4.5 billion years ago. Evolution has been an integral part of the whole story. The game continues and will continue despite being mostly (and still) beyond our comprehension. Science aims to reveal the rules of the game and see the bigger picture. Is winning what really matters? Hmmm, certainly not. There is no losing or winning.

Life is all about experiences. Each and every experience counts equally. Respect and tolerance for everyone, and their individual unique stories is the key to understanding life as it is. There will be good times and bad times, cherish them all. Positive 1 + Negative 1 = 0, that is about it! Along the way, change is inevitable. Resistance to change can only lock our potentials. It is important to keep our mind and heart wide open.

2020 has been a year of massive changes. It is not only the Earth’s crust and atmosphere changing, but also our perception of life and of us (i.e. our intelligence, logic and consciousness). Change doesn’t have to be sudden and visible to the human eye. Deep changes can be subtle and take longer than we can imagine. Just for reference, the nearest star to our sun, Proxima Centauri, is 4.2 light-years away (1 light-year is about 9 trillion km).

Acknowledging the fact that human knowledge and comprehension is limited (humans are not using their brain in full capacity yet!), but has been progressing slowly through centuries, is inevitably a must. Time is endless, thus knowledge is endless. Humans don’t know everything, but they will understand it all, eventually.

Congratulations! You have made it until here. Now, finally, it is time for hydrology!


My curiosity about time and cosmos – supported by my love for the nature – constantly inspires my thinking for the profession I have been involved with for the last 10 years: Hydrology! And, I am so excited about hydrology and its future, as well discovering the relation between hydrology and cosmos.

We live on the blue planet, unique in our solar system. It has abundant water in all its phases, and hence supports a myriad forms of life. Hydrology is often described as the study of the occurrence, movement, and quality of water. It seems then that hydrology has to be the most fundamental and exciting of the earth sciences. – writes Upmanu Lall in his 2014 commentary “One water. One world. Many climes. Many souls” for the Water Resources Research’s first series of the “The Debates on Water Resources”: The future of hydrological sciences: A (common) path forward?” This was a very timely and valuable effort led by the current EGU president, Alberto Montanari, then WRR Editor-in-Chief. If you haven’t read the series, I strongly recommend doing so.

Recently, there have been several papers looking at the evolution of hydrology and water sciences (Peters-Lidard et al., 2018; Sivapalan, 2018; McCurley & Jawitz, 2017; McDowell et al., 2019; Peel and McMahon, 2020; Montanari et al., 2015). In the last couple of years, similar attempts from sister disciplines were put forward as well (e.g., Randall et al., 2018; Benjamin et al., 2018; Haupt et al., 2018; Stith et al., 2018 – all published in Meteorological Monographs as part of the Centennial Monograph Chapters “A Century of Progress in Atmospheric and Related Sciences: Celebrating the American Meteorological Society”). The research community seems to be aware that science and technology is at the cusp of its biggest boom, and working relentlessly to survive the 21st century and welcome the 22nd century.

Researchers who studied hydrology in their graduate studies between 2010 and 2020 is the luckiest generation, I think.

We joined the hydrology community at a time when the scientific progress had a large increasing momentum; so much happened in the last 10 years. Many interesting transdisciplinary topics have emerged: large sample hydrology (Addor et al., 2019), deep learning (Nearing et al., 2020; Beven et al., 2020), citizen science (Nardi et al., 2020), socio-hydrology (Di Baldassarre et al., 2019), among many others. The IAHS initiative on “23 unsolved problems in hydrology – UPH” (Blösch et al., 2019) is already shaping ongoing research efforts.

Review and/or opinion papers are flourishing in number and scope, see, e.g.: Beven et al.(2020) on observational methods; Bierkens (2015) on global hydrology; Paniconi & Putti (2015) on physically-based modeling; Clark et al. (2015) on hydrological processes and Earth System Models; Guswa et al. (2020) on ecohydrology; McMillan (2020) on hydrologic signatures, Gleeson et al. (2020) on earth system resilience; Casgrove & Loucks (2015) on water management; Ruddell & Wagener (2015) on hydrology education.

We are witnessing this decade of substantial content, which is providing critical insights into diverse topics within hydrological sciences.

It is not surprising that the utmost curiosity is felt by the very same generation. It was to this decade that our fresh minds were born to the universe of hydrology. Being a proud member of this generation, I am just so excited about the future of hydrology.

Realizing also that the far future is actually not too far, I took the initiative to propose a new session titled “HS1.2.2 Hydrology in the 22nd century” for vEGU21. We want to see what other hydrologists are thinking about hydrology’s far future. In this new cross-cutting HS session I am joined by wonderful colleagues sharing the same passion and curiosity: Caitlyn Hall, Shaun Harrigan, Yannis Markonis, Giovanny Mosquera.

No doubt that it is not an easy time to focus on the far future while the now is going on so intensely crazy. Yet, this also creates room for positivity and dreaming/wishful thinking for the (far) future we, as scientists, envision for the world.

Let’s focus on the 2100s, or even the 2200s, for a change. What’s awaiting the planet Earth & humankind on its everlasting journey? What will hydrology look like in the 22nd century? This proposed session is an open opportunity for you to share your vision of hydrology in the 2100s and beyond.

Pushing the limits of our thinking already is a worthwhile effort for shaping the not-so-imminent future of hydrology —at least in our minds— starting here and today. Please note that embracing holistic advances in technology, spirituality, and humanity with a scientific mind requires deep imagination and absolute creativity. We kindly invite contributions from the members of the growing hydrology community who dare to imagine beyond the limits of their mind and with a touch from their heart. If you are interested, don’t forget to submit your abstract taking hydrology fast-forward into the far future by 13 Jan 2021.

Looking forward to 2021 and the 22nd century! Sending positive vibes!

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List of references: here

All images are freely-usable, from Unsplash: Image1, Image2, Image3.

Author information:

Nilay Dogulu is a keen enthusiast for science-informed operational hydrology. Her research interests deal mainly with the applications of data-driven modelling techniques in hydrology. In her PhD research, Nilay explored the use of clustering methods for understanding catchment similarity and improving runoff predictions in ungauged basins. Nilay has acted as the Early Career Scientist Representative for the European Geosciences Union (EGU) HS Division (2017-19) and the International Association of Hydrological Sciences (IAHS) (2018-2022).


Edited by Maria-Helena Ramos

1 Comment

  1. Avatar

    Great article, I very liked it. Thanks!
    That’s something that we discuss also with one of my kids, time, cosmos, e.g., why is time the only variable with one single direction?

    Hydrology 2100s?
    As background I am mostly observational hydrologist, using remote sensing and (simplified) modelling for understanding and simulating the water cycle.
    Therefore, I believe that in 2100s we will have reached the capability to observe the water cycle quite completely, hopefully also in the soil and in deeper layers (surely on the atmosphere). Time series will be long enough for reliable and robust hydrological analyses. I expect that our modelling systems will be highly data-driven (data-dependent) with very likely a lot of Artificial Intelligence.
    In this scenario: what will be the hydrology challenges?
    Well, I don’t have an answer, but there’s time to think on that!


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