This week I’m enjoying reading a classic publication on education in hydrology. The introduction included portraits of the authors, which is unusual for a journal article. All of them are titans in the field. Indeed, this is the first time I had seen a picture of Nash, one of the first people to call himself a “hydrologist”. His name is also on the “Nash-Sutcliffe Score”, the most widely used measure of how different a hydrologic simulation (or forecast) is from what actually happened.
Nash writes (in 1990):
It is fashionable to regard man's involvement in nature as almost always bad. It is true that ignorance (often spurred on by greed) is leading to progressive damage to the natural environment and that we require as much scientific understanding as possible of the relevant processes in order to diagnose our mistakes and put them right. On a more positive note, however, man's ability to control his environment, to improve it and to make it more enjoyable, and indeed more productive and profitable, depends just as centrally on putting our understanding of hydrological processes on as sound a scientific basis as we can manage.
“The current state of the art is that of a car spinning its wheels while stuck in a swamp, with frenetic computer applications making the problem worse by devaluing human judgment and experience.”