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The National Center for Hydrologic Synthesis (NCHS) @ Berkeley. HIS Symposium, March 7-9, 2005. Overview. NCHS Concepts, Organization, Working Groups, Partners, Budget Susan Hubbard, LBNL and UCB CHAI: Enabling synthesis through advanced infrastructure Norm Miller, LBNL and UA

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the national center for hydrologic synthesis nchs @ berkeley

The National Center for Hydrologic Synthesis (NCHS)@ Berkeley

HIS Symposium, March 7-9, 2005

  • NCHS Concepts, Organization, Working Groups, Partners, Budget

Susan Hubbard, LBNL and UCB

  • CHAI: Enabling synthesis through advanced infrastructure Norm Miller, LBNL and UA
  • NCHS Computational and Collaborative Infrastructure, Deb Agarwal, LBNL




It is now clearly documented that the 20th Century hydrology paradigm is inadequate in face of the increase in number, severity, complexity and the scale of the water-related science questions facing the world. There are several Agents of Change that serve as drivers of the Modern Hydrology Paradigm

1. Emergence of continental and global-scale problems.

2. Interconnectedness of nature and the changes caused by humans.

  • The need to balance between Economy, Ecosystems, Equity.
  • Availability of state-of-the-art data sets, assimilation tools and modeling systems, which permit the testing and development of hydrological theories and concepts.
nchs background
NCHS Background

CUAHSI identified the need for a Synthesis Center as part of the HydroView Framework to address some of these research needs.


  • US Competition determined Berkeley as finalist
  • Berkeley working with CUASHI to submit proposal to NSF
  • NCHS expected to be operational in November, 2005
  • Founding Management:
    • Executive Director: Yoram Rubin
  • Director of Operations: Susan Hubbard
nchs objectives
NCHS Objectives:
  • Develop a vision of hydrology and water resources management.
  • Translate this vision into a focused but evolving research program.
  • Encourage synthesis activities that integrate science, technology, and societal needs.
  • Support collaborative research between researchers of different positions, disciplines, institutions, and sectors.
  • Design and demonstrate new methods and tools for hydrologic research through the integration of mathematical, engineering, physical, life, information and social sciences.
  • Disseminate research results broadly to scientific and professional communities as well as educational institutions and public media outlets.
the nchs model includes
The NCHS model includes:
  • Interdisciplinary

Interdisciplinary research teams, with participation from the hydrological, earth, life, atmospheric/climate, social sciences and engineering arenas;

  • Multi-Sectoral Collaboration and Partnerships hydrologists will need to form unconventional and nontraditional research coalitions with environmental leaders, policy experts, public and private sectors hydrology stakeholders and end users;
  • Advanced Infrastructure

that will allow NCHS researchers to develop and test new theories and models; to access dynamic databases and HIS products; and to communicate results and effectively collaborate with others.


Organizational Design: IRAs

  • IRAs are the main vehicle for facilitating cross-disciplinary research;
  • IRAs will represent arenas of inquiry in which cross-cutting collaborations are likely to produce significant progress, and reflect the needs and interests of the hydrology community at large,

NCHS will begin to solicit input from the community about potential IRA topics in the near future

people at the nchs
People at the NCHS
  • NCHS Postdocs and Doctoral Fellows
    • Selected annually on a competitive basis, based on quality of proposal & compatibility of project with research directions of the Center (IRAs).
  • Visiting Research Fellows
    • Fellowships will be awarded to researchers and professionals from academia, industry, government and public non-government;
    • Goal is to enrich the Center’s activity with diversity of opinions, experiences and perspectives
  • Others: Management, staff, E&O coordinator, Industrial Liaison, Artist-in-Residence and Writer-in-Residence.
  • Working Groups …

NCHS Working Groups

  • Observatories

(Lead: George Hornberger)

  • Advanced Instrumentation

(Lead: Witold Krajewski)

  • CHAI: Computational Hydrology, Assimilation, and Infrastructure (Lead: Norm Miller)
  • Global Water Science (Lead: Charlie Vorosmarty)
  • Hydrologically Compatible Institutions

(Lead: Henry Vaux)

  • Education and Outreach (TBD)
  • Hydromorphology (Lead: Upmanu Lall)


observatories wg
Observatories WG
  • Mission.The OWG will strive “to use a network of hydrological observatories to address regional- to continental-scale hypotheses.”
  • Core Group:
    • George Hornberger (UVA)
    • Matt Larsen (USGS)
    • Leal Mertes (UCSB)
    • Ignacio Rodriguez-Irturbe (Princeton)
  • The focusof the OWG will be on “large” watersheds and how spatially distributed information can be used to address regional-scale hypotheses.
  • Example:Spatial and temporal relationships exist among biota, hydrology and geomorphology - heterogeneity varies across scales and influences the evolution of diversity patterns. Can simplified ecohydrological theory be developed to capture the essence of such dynamic variability?
instrumentation wg
Instrumentation WG
  • Mission:To ascertain what technological developments, scientific breakthroughs, and national coordination are necessary to meet the watershed instrumentation needs of the community, and to develop strategies for addressing these needs.
  • Core members:
    • Witold Krajewski (University of Iowa)
    • Rosemary Knight (Stanford),
    • Danny Marks (NWRC USDA),
    • David Genereux (North Carolina State University)
    • Jan Hopmans (University of California at Davis).
  • Example Topics:
    • What are the most critical instrumentation needs that are specific to hydrology?
    • Can scientific advances or improved understanding of space-time organization of hydrologic processes across scales allow us to develop better observational systems and in turn, predictive skills?
    • How can hydrology benefit from the advances in sensor miniaturization, wireless communication, power storage and supply, and networking technologies?

CHAI Planning Group:Computational Hydrology, data Assimilation, and InfrastructureIt is critically important that NCHS relieve the synthesis researchers of the burden of implementing and accessing the advanced tools needed for computation and collaboration;

  • Mission. The CHAI WG has been designed to address what computational hydrology and infrastructure is needed at the NCHS to enable researchers to perform synthesis and collaborations, and how it should be developed in parallel with HIS products and evolve to meet the needs of the hydrological community.
  • Core members:
    • Norman Miller (Hydroclimate, LBNL and Hydrology Dept, UA)
    • Deb Agarwal – (Distributed Systems Dept., NERSC)
    • David Maidment – (UT and HIS representative)
    • Chaitan Baru – (San Diego Super Computing Center)
    • Paul Houser– (Hydrology Branch NASA, William and Mary)

NCHS Partnerships are:

      • Multi-Sectoral, Multi-disciplinary
      • International & Committed
  • We have found in our partners tremendous enthusiasm to participate in the proposed open research platform, which is unconstrained by any agency mandate.

NCHS 5 Year Budget

Yearly Budget: ~$4.3 to 7.4 Million

Five Year NCHS Budget: $ 28 Million


Expenditures: Personnel

Growth concomitant with increased NCHS and co-managed activity

  • Other professionals include:
  • Writer & teacher in residence
  • Education officer
  • Industrial Liaison

NCHS Education, Outreach, and Knowledge Transfer

Diana Rhoten, Social Science Research Council

Components of Multi-Target Mission

Principles of Education and Outreach

  • Education and Outreach
      • K-12 Education (K-12)
      • Higher Education (HE)
      • Public Awareness (PA)
  • Knowledge Transfer
      • Stakeholder Information (SI)
  • Education and Outreach Working Group and Coordinator
  • Institutional Partnerships
  • Core and Seed Funded Projects
  • Staggered Implementation
chai working group computational hydrology data assimilation and infrastructure
CHAI Working Group:Computational Hydrology, data Assimilation, and Infrastructure
  • The CHAI WG has been designed to address what computational / collaborative infrastructure is needed at the NCHS to enable researchers to perform synthesis and collaborations.
  • How should the infrastructure evolve to work in parallel with HIS products and to meet the needs of the hydrological community?
why chai
Why CHAI ?
  • Advancing conceptual hydrologic understanding hinges upon the utilization of new data products through computation, assimilation, evaluation, and analysis.
  • Multi-disciplinary hydrologic synthesis will require advanced models, a system framework, and a computational infrastructure.
  • CHAI WG will guide the basic infrastructure development and staffing needs of the NCHS
  • CHAI WG will explore what advanced infrastructure is necessary to perform complex hydrological simulations, data assimilation research, and to disseminate synthesis results.

Hydrologic synthesis is data driven and requires process level conceptualization across scales





Site Observations


Integrating Multidisciplinary Hydrologic Sciencethrough advances in Modeling and Data Assimilation




Area (A)



Water Level (H)

A-V, H-V, H-A

Utilize Remote Sensed Data to Estimate Water Storage











T/P Altimeter










Land Cover



Utilize HIS Data to Drive Hydrologic Models

Input data are integrated using GIS

example groundwater storage reduction
Example: Groundwater Storage Reduction
  • Groundwater mining
  • Negative balance between recharge and discharge
  • Saltwater intrusion due to excessive pumping
  • Saltwater intrusion by sea level rise due to climate change
  • Groundwater contamination

HighPlain aquifer, USA

nchs computational infrastructure
NCHS Computational Infrastructure
  • Support working groups and resident users
    • Computational capabilities
    • Data management and storage
    • Collaborative tools
    • HIS Access
    • Networking
    • Cybersecurity
    • Visualization capabilities
    • Technical support and help
    • Tutorials and training
    • Backups
nchs computational infrastructure ramp up
NCHS Computational Infrastructure Ramp-up
  • Year 1
    • Basic infrastructure
    • Contributions in-kind
  • Year 2-3
    • Cluster
    • Visualization wall
    • Immersive
    • videoconferencing
data management support for the synthesis process
Data Management Support for the Synthesis Process
  • Capture and store the metadata
    • Methodology
    • Models used
    • Data and result filenames
    • Discussions and meetings
  • Document workgroup process
    • Allow study of the synthesis process
  • Publication of synthesis results
Commercial products


Research products

Access Grid

Virtual Room Videoconferencing System

Leverage existing infrastructure

shared white board e beam
Portable sensor

Captures real and screen whiteboards

Free software

Inexpensive sensors

Web interface

Shared White Board – (E-Beam)
jabber instant messaging and presence
Standards-based (XMPP/XML)

Many free clients and servers available

Personal proxies/archives

Supports asynchronous interaction

Supports long-running threaded conversations

Jabber Instant Messaging and Presence
lecture capture and playback
Capture equipment needed


Web camera


Realvideo server

Capture software

Playback via browser

Lecture Capture and Playback
community involvement
Community Involvement
  • Identify key software, infrastructure, and models needed by users
  • Identify needs and provide collaborative spaces to support working groups
  • Webpage to solicit input

  • Work with users to continuously improve the infrastructure