Professor Döll has been working on modelling of water resources since 1996. Now, her group has set itself the task of quantifying water flows and water volumes on the earth's continents more accurately in order to gain a deeper understanding of global water cycles. The team is collaborating with Professor Jürgen Kusche, a geodesist in Bonn, on this project.
Global hydrological models already exist, but the aim now is to include additional, satellite-based observation data. "In order to quantify more precisely how water is distributed worldwide, we need to develop a new method that lets us assimilate these data and use them to adjust model parameters," remarks Professor Döll. How much water is there in the ground? How much water is flowing in various rivers? And how much water is hidden in snow fields? "If we can understand the present status of water resources and know how water moves, how it is stored and what happens when there is little rainfall, then we are a big step further."
Continental water flows play an important role for other aspects of the earth system. For example, groundwater depletion contributes to the global sea level rise. In a globalised world, a better understanding of the freshwater system worldwide would help to ensure sustainable water management (for example during droughts), but equally the sustainable production of food and energy. Seven groups from Germany are engaged in the project as well as one from Switzerland and another from Luxembourg.
The German Research Foundation is currently setting up a total of eight new Research Units, a Clinical Research Unit and two Centres for Advanced Studies, for which around € 32 million will be available in the first phase. This funding enables researchers to look at current pressing issues in their field and adopt innovative approaches in their work.