A European vision for hydrological observations and experimentation

Galileo Conferences
19 - 22 Sep 2022 - 23:59
Napoli, Italy

Scope and topics

In the next decades, expected changes in the water cycle will be a major driver in shaping our environment and its ecosystems. Water is the key factor for life and for sustaining food, feed and biomass for energy production in today’s bio-based economies. The water cycle will be strongly affected by climate change but the extent and impact on ecosystems functioning and services are only roughly known. Increasing hydrological extremes, such as floods and droughts, may lead to severe ecological, economic and societal impacts. In a recent review, Vereecken et al. (2015) urged the hydrological science community to establish a network of hydrological observatories in Europe. At present, there is no concerted and dedicated action in the field of hydrology neither in Europe nor world-wide with respect to making hydrological data accessible to the research community and in designing cross-catchment experiments.

A valuable opportunity and undeniable advantage of establishing such observatories are to bring together scientists with different experiences and expertise so that advances can be achieved in both theories and methods. As an example, people working on monitoring evapotranspiration fluxes benefit from recent and detailed studies on root uptake as well as those working with geophysical techniques to better assess groundwater recharge should also share ideas with the ones providing outcomes on pollution vulnerability issues in the critical zone.

We envision this event being itself an "observatory", with participation also of scientists whose current researches are only seemingly at the border of the main themes outlined above.


Establishing a network of hydrological observatories in Europe have not been successful as a consequence of the fragmented and dispersed research landscape and lack of community awareness. There are, however, examples of excellent cutting-edge hydrological research being performed at well-established, highly instrumented hydrological observatories, such as the Attert basin in western Luxembourg, the HOBE catchment in Denmark, the UARC catchment in Italy, the HOAL catchment in Austria, and national networks such as the TERENO catchments in Germany, and OZCAR catchments in France (see recent special issue on Hydrologic Observatories in the Vadose Zone Journal). One unique feature of these hydrological observatories is the measurement of relevant hydrologic variables for process driven modeling. These catchments may serve as a community-driven nucleus for a European data and experimentation platform of hydrological observatories. As one step forward in the direction of a larger network of hydrological observatories, this Galileo Conference aims to develop a common data and experimentation platform to make data of different existing hydrological observatories accessible and readily available to the research community. In a next step, such a platform could be expanded to include models and tools to analyze data and to perform hydrological forecasts. This would also allow a model driven design of catchment experiments.

We envision the development of new modelling approaches that rely less on calibration but are rather based on insightful analysis of landscape heterogeneity and process complexity through systematic learning from innovative hydrological observation data and a synergetic data analysis approach using novel data exploration methods. The development of a European model-data driven framework enables the design of hydrological experiments to gain knowledge for the development of new hydrological theories. For example, large-scale labelling and tracer experiments can be conducted, as well as interdisciplinary measurement programs including climatology, hydrology, plant, environment and ecology to embrace new scientific perspectives. Envisaged research partnerships with existing European networks (e.g. International Soil Moisture Network, Global Runoff Data Base) leverage these efforts by the multi-variate catchment-scale observatory focus of this conference.

Event Themes

UAS- and satellite-based remote sensing for hydrological observatories
Soil moisture dynamics across scales
Data assimilation and hydrological observations
Geophysics and isotopes in catchment hydrology
Big data science in hydrological research

Università degli Studi di Napoli Federico II, Dipartimento di Scienze della Terra, dell'Ambiente e delle Risorse (DISTAR) - Sede
Largo S. Marcellino, 10
80138 Napoli NA