The majority of urban hydrological models focus primarily on differences in the rainfall-runoff ratio between pervious and impervious area. Impervious area (as I have mentioned in a previous post), is traditionally assumed to be the major causal source of changes in the hydrological cycle associated with urbanization. Infrastructure-centric urban hydrologic models assume that water that is infiltrated or evapotranspirated before reaching drains and pipes has “exited” the system. As more and more infiltration-based stormwater control measures are implemented however, this assumption needs to be more closely examined. Are urban soils and the urban subsurface truly effectively inexhaustible in capacity? This question is particularly important when we think about multiday rain events and changes in intensity of rainfall associated with climate change.
I recently read an article that posed an interesting question: does the wealth of data that we are now able to collect about every aspect of life make the development of explanatory models and theories moot? All theories and models are reductionist representations of complex real life that are meant to help us understand how things work. But, says the author of this article, in the age of the Petabyte, explanations of why we do the things we do are becoming less important. More important are the development of tools and methodologies that extract the patterns, show the statistical correlations, and find the relationships between all the data that we are collecting.
“Ecology” is another one of those words that I’ve hearing more and more, used in ways that you might not immediately associate with the field of ecology. The “ecology of innovation” for example, is a term that describes the actors, interactions, and environmental conditions necessary to foster the propagation of innovative ideas. Relating to the field of urban planning, I’ve come across three main aspects of urban ecology: the quantitative/modeling studies, the sociological and historical conceptual frameworks, and the urban ecological design principals. These three aspects make up the “ecology” of urban ecology because they influence and interact with each other, are evolving, and exist within a broader context which shapes them all.