WRS Seminar and Headwaters Lecture

GEWEX Activities and the Water for the Food Baskets of the World Grand Challenge


Petrus (Peter) J. van Oevelen
Principal Scientist, USRA and Director, International GEWEX Project office

October 5, 2018


The Water for the Food Baskets Grand Challenge is a GEWEX (Global Energy and Water EXchanges Project) led activity as part of the World Climate Research Programme. Within this grand challenge we address how to effectively incorporate aspects of the human dimension, e.g. irrigation and water management, crop rotation etc. in climate and weather modeling as well as how to link the latter to crop and vegetation modeling at regional and global scales. The human-related aspects are not just geophysically driven but in particular by socio-economical factors and hence require different expertise. Within this grand challenge, we seek to integrate the various knowledge communities to address these issues. An important aspect of modeling food and crop production is a realistic representation of the climate and weather at the appropriate scales. Hence, convection-permitting modeling provides a new and clear prospect in improving our global and regional climate forecasts and projections.

This presentation gives an overview of the various aspects and rationale behind this grand challenge as well as offers an explanation on the implementation of this activity. It also will show how this is relevant to two major regional activities, Third Pole Environment in Asia and ANDEX in Latin America. The global context provides a fertile ground for knowledge increase and exchange as well as opportunities for capacity development much needed in both regions.


Peter van Oevelen was born in The Netherlands and grew up in a country where both the struggles with water as well as the benefits of water are clearly evident and as such the importance of water was already instilled in him from a young age. After high school he chose Wageningen University to study Water Resources and Earth Observation and this led him to obtaining his engineering degree in 1991. After a brief stint at the UN-FAO he continued in Wageningen to pursue his PhD in Earth Observation with an emphasis on microwave remote sensing and soil moisture. During his PhD he was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to study at University of California at Davis, USA where he worked on stochastic methods in engineering. After his PhD (2000) he co-founded SarVision B.V., a small value adding company that specialized in the use of microwave remote sensing of the environment with a focus on tropical deforestation. During this period, he also lectured at Wageningen University. In 2004 he decided to move to the European Space Agency as the European GEWEX Coordinator and land mission scientist. In 2008 he became the director of the International GEWEX Project office (IGPO) as part of the World Climate Research Programme (WCRP). Since 2015, he has also served as Senior Scientist with the Universities Space Research Association and both he and the IGPO are located in Washington, DC, USA. Peter van Oevelen is internationally recognized as an expert on earth observation, water resources and climate change. His current career is focused on facilitating international research collaboration on water, energy and climate issues and making the science in particular on water and climate issues more accessible to the general public.

Please note that the seminar will be in room 335 instead of 375!