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The Benefits of the Use of the Computers in the Environment

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The influence of computers is universal. Computers are used in applications ranging from running a farm to monitoring all environmental effects. Because the development of computers has been largely the work of scientists, it is natural that a large body of computer applications serves the scientist and the field of science.

Computers have not only helped in increasing awareness amongst the environmental issues, but have also made the research and the development of various diagnostic and prevention methods, easy and cost effective.

Environmental pollution can take many forms. However, its impact on our everyday lives is always undesirable and the end results can be potentially harmful and sometimes even catastrophic. Familiar examples of environmental pollution are smog and polluted air in cities, unwanted noise from aircraft, traffic and industrial machinery, environmental radioactivity from man-made and natural sources, electromagnetic fields from power lines, interference from electronic equipment and increased levels of solar UV radiation due to the depletion of the ozone layer.

In order to be able to minimise the harmful effects of environmental pollution it is first of all necessary to measure the concentration of the pollutant accurately. Accurate measurements are also essential to enable the effectiveness of anti-pollution and pollution control measures to be quantified.

Computers capabilities can provide better forecasts of when and where earthquakes are likely to occur and how the ground will shake as a result. Global climate models simulate complex chemical, biological and geological processes in the Earth's air, oceans and land over thousands of years. Robotic sensors monitor ecosystem health or track pollutants in urban watersheds in real-time.

But let’s take it one at a time. First of all computers have a tremendous effect in the area of chemistry. Chemistry is a science closely related to the environment and the use of computers is necessary to generate information such as properties of molecules or simulated experimental results. It also helps chemists make predictions before running the actual experiments so that they can be better prepared for making observations of complex molecules, which can be used as pesticides, for example. In short, almost all the effects that chemicals might have on people or the environment can be calculated with the help of computers.

Computers are also used in field research, so as to make large volumes of data (photographs, diagrams, geochemical data, field notes, maps, etc.) accessible in the field. In the past, this was done by carrying a case with many copied documents, but with the advent of computers, environmental scientists working on the field could now have at their disposal a vast amount of data always with them.

One of the most important applications of computer technology in the environmental science is Remote Sensing. Remote Sensing is observing and measuring our environment from a distance. So, satellites are usually put into space to monitor resources important for humans. For example, remote sensing satellites might track animal migration, locate mineral deposits, watch agricultural crops for weather damage, or see how fast the forests are being cut down.

All of these things can be done best from space because a satellite in orbit can normally take photographs of large expanses of land all over the world. Since these satellites are able to take photographs and observe areas all over the globe, the satellite is able to monitor areas in which the climate is very harsh, or which are nearly impossible to reach by land.

Also over the past decade, remote sensing has emerged as a valuable tool to assess water quality in both marine and freshwater systems, as well. Strong correlations have been found between satellite imagery and basic lake water quality features, but little work has focused on more detailed examination of lake water constituents. The application of more detailed remote sensing techniques may lead to a greater understanding of phytoplankton dominance. By pairing hyper spectral reflectance data with water quality data, we propose to develop a technique to predict toxin concentrations.

But remote sensing can also be performed without the use of satellites. For example the wireless sensor technology developed through a partnership between the University of California, Berkeley, and the Intel Research Berkeley laboratory. The researchers developed miniaturized sensors, or “motes” as they are called, and installed them on the nearby Great Duck Island. Each device, slightly bigger than the two AA batteries powering it, is now beaming back raw data about the conditions in the burrows and the island's microclimate. All this data are available to the biologist on-line through a web-site. This way the environmental scientists can observe the animals in their natural environment without interfering.

Furthermore computers have another very important use in the environmental science. Mathematical modelling and computer simulation provide indispensable tools to determine, as accurately as possible, levels at which pollution should be reduced. Three-dimensional environmental models describe emissions, transport in flow fields, and reactions of chemical and biochemical constituents. When attempting to reduce pollution, it is necessary to determine critical levels and to develop measures against pollutions as accurately as possible, so as to minimize the costs of the reduction. This is desirable since pollution reduction may involve high economic costs.




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