NH
Natural Hazards

Hydrogeology

Anthropogenic changes of the landscape and natural hazards

Anthropogenic changes of the landscape and natural hazards

In this post, I had the pleasure to interview Paolo Tarolli, a very active member of the EGU community and a brilliant scientist. He is Professor in Water Resources Management and Integrated Watershed Management, and head of Earth Surface Processes and Society research group at the Università degli Studi di Padova (Italy). He has a PhD in Environmental Watershed Management and Geomatics and has worked as academic staff at the Università degli Studi di Padova since 2011. He was Visiting Professor at several universities (e.g. China University of Geosciences, Guangzhou University, National Cheng Kung University, EPFL), and Adjunct Professor at University of Georgia and Università Politecnica delle Marche.

Paolo Tarolli is also very active in science dissemination, being Executive Editor of the open access journal Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences (NHESS) and Science Officer of the Natural Hazards division (NH6 remote sensing & hazards) at the European Geosciences Union (EGU). He is also a member of the European Geosciences Union, the American Geophysical Union, and the British Society for Geomorphology.

His fields of expertise include digital terrain analysis, earth surface processes analysis, natural hazards, geomorphology, hydro-geomorphology, lidar, structure-from-motion photogrammetry; new research directions include the analysis of topographic signatures of human activities from local to regional scale.

1) Humans are having an increasing impact on the Earth, and the term Anthropocene is now commonly used to define the period we are living in to highlight the strong influence of human beings. How are humans shaping the Earth?

 

Conceptual diagram of long-term changes in sociocultural systems, cultural inheritances, societal scale, energy use and anthropogenic geomorphic features (source: Tarolli et al. 2019, Progress in Physical Geography, doi:10.1177/0309133318825284)

Human societies have been reshaping the geomorphology of landscapes for thousands of years, producing anthropogenic geomorphic features ranging from earthworks and ditches to settlements, agricultural terraces, ports, roads, canals, airports and constructed wetlands that have distinct characteristics compared with landforms produced by natural processes. Human societies are transforming the geomorphology of landscapes at increasing rates and scales across the globe. These anthropogenic patterns, directly and indirectly, alter Earth surface processes while reflecting the sociocultural conditions of the societies that produced them. In my recent paper published in Progress in Physical Geography[1] (a research collaboration with some colleagues with a different background, e.g. geomorphology, ecology and archaeology), we introduced the concept of “sociocultural fingerprints”. We connected the novel Earth system processes provided by the emergence and evolution of human societies with their continuous shaping and reshaping of Earth’s geomorphology from the deep past into the foreseeable future. We underlined the opportunity to recognize the geomorphic signatures of sociocultural fingerprints across Earth’s land surface using high-resolution remote sensing[2] combined with a theoretical framework that integrates the natural and sociocultural forces that have and will shape the landscapes of the Anthropocene. Doing so, the long-term dynamics of anthropogenic landscapes can be more effectively investigated and understood, towards more sustainable management of the Earth system.

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Job matchmaking in the water sector

Job matchmaking in the water sector

Sooner or later in your career, you have turned lunch breaks, entire weekends or nights into a job search. Looking for a job can be like dating: it can either be an easy going match, quickly finding the right job position for you, or it might be a long and unsatisfying search over millions of websites. The climax arises if you want to use your past research expertise into something new, a multidisciplinary professional experience (especially outside academia). So then, the issue: googling the keywords of your dream job, the ‘what’ and the ‘where’. Frustration, frustration and frustration. Until you find it, Josh’s Water Jobs! A collection of water-related job positions worldwide, jumping from NGOs, UN consultancies, PhD/Post-doc with a turnover of new posts almost every day.

This interview is to introduce who saved our endless searches, giving us the chance to apply for a position that, probably, we would have never found alone. I am presenting Dr Joshua Newton.

1) Hello Josh, can you please tell us something about you, your background and actual employment?

Some years ago, my Bachelor’s degree focused on international hydropolitics and I ended up working on transboundary water issues for about a decade, although I still do some work on the subject from time to time. In the middle of my PhD, which was focused on transboundary cooperation, I did what was supposed to be a short-term consultancy at UNESCO on the Ministerial Process of the 5th World Water Forum in Istanbul that turned into two years. During that time, I asked myself the question why this Process was the only platform we had at the global level to discuss water. So I ended up switching my PhD to focus on global water governance, macro-level thinking on how countries interact at the global level over water, basically within the United Nations system. And I’ve been working on global political processes related to water with a variety of organizations ever since.

I’m currently a half-time staff member at the Global Water Partnership (GWP) in Stockholm, Sweden and then I freelance the other 50% of the time. And, of course, my major hobby is the website.

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Natural Groundwater Quality: an underestimated and yet dangerous hazard.

Natural Groundwater Quality: an underestimated and yet dangerous hazard.

Today I have the pleasure to interview Dr. Evangelos Tziritis, a brilliant scientist and a friend. He will talk to us about Natural groundwater quality hazard and its implications. This blog aim is to discuss Natural Hazards. Therefore, today we will focus on the natural component of water quality, disregarding anthropogenic sources. 

Evangelos is a Research Scientist at the Soil and Water Resources Institute of the Hellenic Agricultural Organization “Demeter”. His main research domain is focused on environmental hydrogeochemistry, as well as on other aspects including hydrogeology, aquifer vulnerability, geostatistics, isotope hydrology, water resources management, and environmental monitoring of water reserves. His record of achievements includes more than 10 years of experience in geo-environmental projects of basic and applied research in liaison with private firms, stakeholders, and academia. He has published more than 50 scientific papers in peer-reviewed journals and international conferences.

 

 

  1. Today we are going to talk about Natural Groundwater Quality Hazards. What can you tell us about it? How would you define the Natural Groundwater Quality Hazards?

Natural groundwater quality hazards are defined as the natural factors that adversely influence the environmental quality of aquifer systems. In contrast to anthropogenic factors which are purely man-induced (e.g. agricultural or industrial impacts, domestic sewage and wastes, seawater intrusion due to overexploitation, etc), the natural causes are triggered solely by geogenic factors, such as the weathering of geological formations; the impact of diagenetic processes; the influence of geothermal fields, etc.

Groundwater quality is dynamically affected by external (e.g. precipitation) and internal (e.g. lithology) factors, which may alter the initial, potentially pristine, chemical composition of the solution.  Groundwater moving through rocks and soils may pick up a wide range of inorganic compounds including major and minor ions, heavy metals and metalloids, some of which are toxic in certain concentrations (e.g. Cadmium, Selenium, Arsenic, Copper, Boron, Lead, etc). It should be noted that natural hazards define along with other characteristics the hydrogeochemical background on an aquifer system, thus they are not related to contamination (defined as the deviation of the natural background values of a constitute) but rather to a relative enrichment of specific chemical constitutes, which depending on their overall concentrations and unique attributes (e.g. toxicity, bioavailability, etc) may be detrimental to natural and anthropogenic environment.

 

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Multi-Natural-Hazards: how can we deal with such complex chain of events?

Multi-Natural-Hazards: how can we deal with such complex chain of events?

Today we have the honor to have Prof. Victor Jetten as our guest. Throughout his career Victor, has been working in modelling of natural hazard and land degradation processes. Starting with biomass and grazing capacity, the effects of logging on the natural rain forest water balance, he then moved to soil erosion and land degradation processes as a result of land use change and overgrazing. He believes that all these processes should not be studied and modeled as separate disciplines but in a much more holistic way. In the context of Natural Disasters stakeholders are confronted with chains of multiple hazards: such an earthquake leading to landslides leading to blockage of river systems leading to flash floods (such as happened in Wenchuan in 2008 and Nepal in 2016). Each subsequent extreme rainfall triggers landslides and extreme erosion, forging possibly more change in these areas than several decades of climate change, and wiping out years of development. Victor thinks science has to be useful for society and his aim is to provide timely and actionable spatial information in disaster preparedness, prevention and response. To this end he develops together with PhD researchers the opensource model openLISEM, that is able to simulate runoff, river discharge, floods, erosion and deposition and debris flows, in an integrated and spatially detailed way.

 

  1. Today we are going to talk about multi-hydromorphic-hazards. Victor, what can you tell us about it?

We have moved from theory and models to understand processes in nature to the application of that knowledge in a hazards context (as a result of triggers such as extreme weather events or earthquakes). The probability of that event was added, to serve stakeholders better. But things become complicated very rapidly: we almost never know the probability of the event itself, so we exchanged that for the probability of the driving process, which is not the same. Hazards happen at the same time or as a chain of events: the 2008 earthquake in Wenchuan had direct earthquake damage, triggered over 100000 landslides, hundreds of which dammed rivers that potentially led to flash floods. Flash floods are triggered after an el Nino year because the sparse vegetation led to overgrazing. This complexity gives us problems: we have different models for different processes made by separate groups of scientists: geomorphologists look at landslides, hydrologists at flooding (but not so much at sediment in floods and where sediment comes from), erosion is the domain of soil scientists and agriculture (but floods are far downstream), meteorologists focus on the weather part of hazards. This is perfectly natural as each of these are sciences in itself. But now you live on a Caribbean island and are hit by a hurricane. Your house is subject to sea surges, wind damage, flash floods and landslides. These effects are aggravated because of a lack of landscape management that gradually filled up the river channels with sediment. Who will help you? An army of scientists that each speak their own language! And of course the solutions are in spatial planning and governance, which are again separate sciences.

 

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