How to develop models for natural/environmental systems
One of the best ways to develop appropriate models, computer programs, or simulations that can predict the behavior of similar, simple, or complex real-life natural or environmental systems, is by studying several existing real-life natural or environmental systems.
An extensive study of past or existing real-life conditions and scenarios can provide relevant information that could be used in making a computer program or model.
What is a model?
A model can be defined as a product that represents a hypothetical description of processes, circumstances, or situations.
With useful data/information and important technology, models can be produced and used to understand how various types of natural or environmental systems could behave or work.
Information (data) and technology are absolutely necessary for creating models
Usually, a combination of available (raw) data and technology is useful in producing mathematical models or simulations from dependent or independent variables; the final product helps to understand, learn, or predict how other difficult, accessible or inaccessible natural/environmental systems work.
Some of the most applicable and powerful technologies consist of mathematical models that are operated on high-speed computers.
Important steps in developing a model
Anyone who desires to produce an effective or highly applicable model has to repeat some particular steps, probably many times over:
- First, the major components of any natural or environmental system have to be identified and expressed in the form of mathematical equations—which actually summarize major information. (It has to be noted that, in most cases, natural and environmental systems have a couple of components associated with them.)
- Second, high-speed computers have to be used to describe the probable behavior of a system, which is based on circumstances and equations fed into a model. Typically, circumstances and equations are based on past or existing studies.
- Third, a comparison has to be made between a system’s projected or predicted behavior (which is hypothetical and drawn from studies of existing case scenarios), and actual case scenarios or behaviors.
The 3 steps briefly highlighted above, have to be repeated until a trend/pattern is observed. By observing and studying trends, relevant information and equations can be generated and used to produce models that would mimic past and current behaviors of natural/environmental systems.
Successful models can be used to make useful predictions
After developing a successful mathematical model for any natural or environmental system, it can be used to predict what would likely happen under different types of conditions or circumstances.
In fact, models can actually provide precise, or useful answers; like what could/would likely happen tomorrow or in the near (distant) future. Models give a number of projections or predictions of likely occurrences, which are based on different suppositions or assumptions.
How can a model be applied?—An example
Based on the 3 steps briefly stated, a model can be produced and used to describe, for example, a river, and predict what would likely happen to its water quality and other variables if the river is continuously being polluted with varying quantities of solid waste.
Other areas where models can be applied include, pollution of oceans, deforestation, air pollution, climate change, loss of biodiversity, etc.