OR/13/043 Introduction

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Wang, L, Kingdon, A, Shelley, W A, and Smith, N A . 2013. OneRTM: a pilot study for exploring the business case for the next generation of online real-time numerical modelling and data services. British Geological Survey External Report, OR/13/043.


This project highlights new technologies for maintaining and serving environmental models developed within the BGS in response to NERC pilot funding entitled ‘OneRTM: a pilot study for exploring the business case for the next generation of online real-time numerical modelling and data services’.

Existing techniques for maintaining and distributing environmental models to end-users[edit]

In our increasingly dynamic world there is an imperative to identify potential stresses and threats in the environment and to respond quickly with sound decisions. Numerical modelling has been applied in many fields to better understand and predict the behaviours of different natural processes; it allows the study of responses of these natural systems to changes in their stimuli. If government policies or physical infrastructure are affected by such processes, environmental modelling allows alternative designs and/or policies to be evaluated without experimentation on real systems. These may be prohibitively costly, time-consuming, or simply impractical to do.

However, there are limitations in the way that models are traditionally applied:

  • Models are built using historic data for a given period of time, it is costly and time consuming for modellers to keep them up-to-date
  • It generally takes a ‘long-time’ from the inception of a modelling program for modellers to deliver models and results/outputs from the models
  • It is difficult for non-modellers to understand modelled results and to learn how to make best use of models. This limits the value of numerical modelling in supporting decision making because it is hard for decision makers to evaluate their plans or decisions using the models
  • It’s hard for end-users to get access to numerical models developed or owned by institutes or companies

Problems created by traditional modelling process[edit]

The traditional modelling process makes it difficult for people to respond quickly to rapidly developing events, such as floods, draughts and toxic chemical leakage.

Decision makers need robust datasets and numerical models to underpin understanding of natural systems. Limitations in our traditional methodologies for developing numerical models and supplying their results hinder the development of our capability for reacting quickly to the changing world. A timely response to solving these problems would be to develop a new way for maintaining and providing numerical modelling outputs to users. Against this background an Online Real-Time Modelling system (OneRTM) has been developed. This work concentrated on problems related to water as these are the most dynamic elements of the geosphere, have real economic impact due to its resource value and the relatively simple modelling situation (a mass balance) compared with say coastal erosion where not just the processes but the directions of their arrival are major factors thus complicating the modelling efforts.