Danger: Natural System Modeled by Computer

by Martin Kurtovich, Water Resources Engr.; California Water Quality Control Board,

Serial Information: Civil Engineering—ASCE, 1985, Vol. 55, Issue 8, Pg. 44-45

Document Type: Feature article


Computer (mathematical) models are written to simulate such natural systems as those leading to acid rain, flooding, or toxic waste migration from disposal sites into groundwater. In some cases (for example, movement of toxic wastes off site) they help predict phenomenon better than any other means. However, computer models can also be overrated. An inadequate understanding of the natural phenomena can prevent reliable predictions, incorrect assumptions about the model can also affect the outcome. It is recommended that standards for model writing and documentation be established and that users should be involved in writing the model. The user should understand the natural system being simulated in order to correctly interpret the results of the computer model.

Subject Headings: Computer models | Mathematical models | Waste sites | Simulation models | Acid rain | Toxicity | Writing skills | Hydrologic models

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