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Soil Science Society of America Journal Abstract -

Models and Modeling of Hydrogeologic Processes


This article in SSSAJ

  1. Vol. 59 No. 2, p. 300-306
    Received: Mar 8, 1993

    * Corresponding author(s):
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  1. T. N. Narasimhan 
  1. Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management and Dep. of Materials Science and Mineral Engineering, 467 Evans Hall, Univ. of California, Berkeley, CA 94720-1760



J.R. Philip recently articulated a concern of many earth scientists that computer-based mathematical models are impacting soil science practice and soil science education in an undesirable way. Unrealistic faith in the ability of these models to predict the future has encouraged overzealous use of models at the expense of the observational enterprise. These real concerns draw attention to the fact that much needs to be learned about the proper use of models in general and computer-based models in particular in the earth sciences. I was impressed by Philip's thoughts, and here reflect on the current status and the role of models of hydrogeologic processes. While agreeing with Philip's concerns about the improper use of models, I advance a perspective that models (analytical or numerical) are tools with inherent limitations. Despite their overenthusiastic use, computer-based models are potentially capable of helping us advance our knowledge of earth processes in unprecedented ways. As we seek to exploit this tool to its full potential, we may be challenged to reexamine and refine our conceptual foundations so that hydrologic processes are described more precisely than has hitherto been possible.

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