Hydroinformatics impact on hydrological modelling

J.C. Refsgaard, M. Erlich, J.. Bathurst

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter in bookResearchpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Mike Abbott was an outsider to hydrological science, who nevertheless fundamentally advanced hydrological modelling by introducing knowledge from computational hydraulics and later hydroinformatics. His main contribution was the development of the concept of physically based distributed modelling and the European Hydrological System - Système Hydrologique Européen ‘SHE’, in a programme, which he initiated and led during the period 1975-1986, by forging a strong collaboration between public and private European research institutes and companies. The development of the SHE was a pioneering effort resulting in a quantum leap in hydrological modelling at its time of development. Technologically, the SHE remained for the next 1-2 decades the most advanced hydrological modelling system and it is still in use today, around 40 years after its birth. The SHE modelling philosophy was both challenged and imitated during these years. This chapter describes the obstacles to and the achievements of the SHE development, along with the first application studies and the debates generated by the scientific challenges to the SHE concept. The chapter also describes how Mike Abbott's ideas on encapsulation of knowledge in the so-called fourth-generation software systems inspired the development of user-friendly software packages, enabling professionals with domain understanding but without computer knowledge to use models. Further, the chapter describes Mike Abbott's vision of using intelligent hydroinformatics software systems to empower stakeholders and in this way democratise the decision-making processes and ensure social justice in the water sector, and briefly discusses why this vision, in contrast to the very successful ideas related to the SHE and the fourth-generation systems, had limited impact so far. Finally, the chapter discusses the strengths and weaknesses of Mike Abbott's contributions to hydrological modelling seen from today's state of the art and the impacts his contributions continue to have on hydrological modelling today.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMichael Abbott’s hydroinformatics: Poiesis of new relationships with water
EditorsAndreja Jonoski
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherIWA Publishing
Number of pages12
ISBN (Electronic)978-178906265-6
ISBN (Print)978-178906264-9
Publication statusPublished - 15 Dec 2022

Publication series

SeriesIWA Digital Water Book Series


  • Computational hydraulics
  • Distributed physically based model
  • Hydroinformatics
  • Integrated hydrological cycle
  • Modelling philosophy
  • Scientific debate
  • SHE
  • Software systems
  • Water management

Programme Area

  • Programme Area 2: Water Resources


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