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Integrating Multiscale Observations of U.S. Waters
urements such as water managers and educators could easily access the information.
Measuring physical, chemical, and biological properties at multiple scales will increase our process-based and predictive understanding and improve management. An excellent example of this is provided in Chapter 4 by the Neuse River Basin Study, because nitrogen cycling in that basin is controlled to a large extent by microscale processes in regions such as the hyporheic zone, yet understanding actual ecosystem dynamics and effects on estuarine systems requires the broad view provided by spaceborne remote sensing.
A PROMISING BEGINNING
While this vision appears futuristic, the study found—and the report documents—that many elements of this vision currently exist. For example
Sensors:Chapter 2 presented a comprehensive discussion of sensors at a wide variety of scales that are currently under development and being tested in experimental observatories or in research projects that focus on particular environmental variables. This chapter also identified approaches that are emerging in other disciplines that may lead to additional new environmental sensor development, and that will need to be modified for actual field deployment to address issues in water and environment. These advances in measurement technologies range in scale from nanosensors focusing on biological variables to airborne sensors that offer spatial context for point measurements to satellite sensors that offer regional-to-continental scale perspectives.
Embedded sensor networks: Embedded sensor networks, consisting of spatially distributed sensor-containing platforms connected to and often controlled by computers, and with the sensors themselves often containing microprocessors, are also being demonstrated. For example, as presented in Chapter 2, wireless but interconnected instrument buoys at remote lakes in Wisconsin have provided frequent measurements of lake quality. Dense measurements of hydrologic and meteorological sensors at the Santa Margarita Ecological Reserve are providing real-time data to drive watershed models. And sensors embedded in sewer systems are helping to combat combined sewage overflow.
Other communications and cyberinfrastructure: In Chapter 3, the NSF-supported CUAHSI project development of “web portal” applications was presented along with one current example using this technology, the Central America Flash Flood Guidance (CAFFG) System. The importance of cyberinfrastructure was highlighted in several of the case studies presented in Chapter 4.
Modeling and data assimilation:Chapter 3 also reviewed the considerable advances in data assimilation, that is, the merging of data across scales from in-situ point measurements to coarser scale airborne or satellite observa-