Glossary

We have tried to avoid using too much jargon, but here is what we hope is a useful glossary of technical terms used on this site. They include both definitions of cloud-related words and phrases, as well as definitions of some terms and concepts related to the environmental issues that EVO is addressing.


Cloud & computing glossary | Environmental science glossary

Cloud computing glossary

Cloud computing: is the provision of computer hardware and software, as well as data access and storage, that don’t need the user of the cloud to know the physical location or structure of the system that is providing the services. The cloud computing applications or services are delivered via the Internet and are accessed from a web browser, while the software or programmes that the user is running and the data that they are using is stored on web servers at a remote location.

Cloud providers: companies, such as Amazon, IBM, or Microsoft, that provide cloud-based computing, software or application, and storage services to other organizations or individuals, usually for a fee.

Cloud storage: is a service that allows users to save data over the Internet or another network to an off-site storage system maintained by a third party.

Elastic computing: is the ability to provide varying levels of computer processing, memory, and storage resources to meet varying demands from users with time, particularly over periods of peak demand, and to do this in an automated way such that the levels of computing services don’t need to be engineered for in advance.

Infrastructure as a service (IaaS): virtual computer services including servers, network equipment, and the software to run the system, delivered as a service over the Internet by a provider, usually for a fee.

Private cloud: is a cloud infrastructure (and services) used solely for a single organisation with no public access. It can be managed internally or by a third-party and hosted internally or externally.

Public cloud: is a cloud where computing resources and services are available to the general public on a  self-service basis over the Internet.

Semantic web: encompasses the information that enables computors to understand the meaning of information on the Web. It machine-readable information(or metadata) about web pages and objects in web pages and how they are related to each other. The term is sometimes used more specifically to refer to the formats and technologies that enable it, such as a variety of data interchange formats, all of which are intended to provide a consistent agreed description of ideas and terms in a given area (such as the environmental sciences).

Software as a service (SaaS): software available to be run over the Internet. SaaS removes the need to install and run software on the customer’s own computers and can simplify software maintenance and support.

Visualisation: is any technique for creating images to communicate a message.


Environmental science glossary
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Catchment: is an area of land where surface water from rainfall, snowfall, or ice melt flows to a common discharge point. A catchment is separated from adjacent catchments by a watershed or drainage divide. Measurement of outflow from a catchment can be made using a stream gauge at the catchment outlet. A fraction of the rainfall or water in a catchment can enter the groundwater system below the catchment and may flow out of the catchment towards other catchments because groundwater flow directions do not always match those of surface water flow networks.

Diffuse pollution: affects water bodies from a variety of sources, but in the UK, particularly from agricultural areas draining into rivers or recharging groundwater. Diffuse agricultural pollutants include nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus) and a wide range of agricultural pesticides.

Ecosystem services: are the benefits that we derive from resources and processes that are supplied by natural ecosystems. They include, for example, include products like clean drinking water and processes such as the natural decomposition of wastes. The United Nations 2004 Millennium Ecosystem Assessment grouped ecosystem services into four categories: provisioning, the production of food and water; regulating, the control of climate and disease; supporting,  nutrient cycles and crop pollination; and cultural, spiritual and recreational benefits.

Environmental change: is a catch-all term used to describe long-lasting changes in the natural environment and is often used to refer to changes either associated with climate change or with land-use change. 

FUSE: is an acronym for Framework for Understanding Structural Errors, and is a methodology and suite of hydrological models that are being implemented by EVO to investigate the use of cloud computing by environmental scientis.

Hydrological models: are simplified, conceptual and numerical representations of a part of the water cycle. They are mainly used for prediction and for understanding hydrologic processes. Two main types of models can be identified. Statistical, or stochastic, models based on data and mathematical and statistical concepts to link input and output data.  Process-based models try to represent the observed processes, and may contain representations of for example surface flow or runoff, groundwater flow or evaporation.

Land cover: is the term used to categorise the surface of the earth. It can include vegetation by type, e.g. grass, arable, woodland, as well as urban areas and open water. Land cover is an important factor that environmental scientists have to take into account when modelling water and nutrient flows in catchments. 

Nutrients: include nitrogen and phosphorus, are applied to farmland as constituents of commercial fertilizer. Another surce is animal manure applied to fields as well as municipal or industrial wastewater (effluent) or sludge. Farmers can develop and use nutrient management plans to reduce excess application of nutrients.

Terrestrial water cycle: the terrestrial component of the water cycle or hydrologic cycle that describes the movement of water on, above and below the surface of the Earth. Water moves from one source to another, such as from river to sea, or from the atmosphere to catchments, by the physical processes of evaporation, condensation, precipitation, infiltration, runoff, and subsurface flow. In so doing, the water goes through different phases: liquid, solid, and gas.