The digital tidal wave

During the past 10 years, hundreds of new computer programs have flooded the environmental consulting and management fields. This software tsunami is being driven by environmental professionals' demand for tools to help handle staggering amounts of information. Today's environmental managers have to deal with a wide range of data, which can include permit and manifest tracking, stormwater management, ISO 14000 compliance, air quality modeling, OSHA reporting and emergency response pre-planning.

To sort through the myriad types of environmental software, it helps to divide the programs according to their functions. For example, in their popular book Pollution Prevention (P2) Software Systems Handbook (Noyes Publications, 1997), authors Michael Wood, John King and Nicholas Cheremisinoff split up software into eight categories. They include environmental management and regulatory compliance; waste reduction; environmental life cycle costs and impact analysis; financial analysis of P2 projects; remediation projects; risk assessment and contingency; scheduling and cost control analysis; and cost estimation. These categories cover the P2 software products that play important roles in decision-making and management processes.

In a similar vein, we've organized information about the latest environmental computer programs in this issue to keep you from drowning in information overload. Our environmental management software guide in our print edition offers a handy reference chart and covers diverse subjects like air quality management, wastewater treatment and hazardous waste management. So, grab our lifeline and find out about the newest software that can help you cope with your ever-expanding management duties.

To the rescue
What's faster than a speeding bullet, able to crunch stacks of data as high as tall buildings, but doesn't have to rely upon phone booths for wardrobe changes? The answer: supercomputers.

"By the year 2004, we expect ... to have a new supercomputer that makes more than 100 trillion calculations per second ... whose advanced simulations will allow us to test nuclear simulations and even predict tornadoes," Vice President Al Gore said in January.

As part of its fiscal year 2000 budget, the Clinton administration is seeking to invest $366 million in information technology research through its Information Technology for the Twenty-first Century Initiative, known as IT2. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) will be requesting part of this money to develop advanced applications and the supercomputers, software and networks needed to support these applications.

The environmental applications of the supercomputers could significantly improve combustion modeling and lead to low-emission, high efficiency car engines, industrial boilers, gas turbines and other devices, according to DOE Undersecretary Ernest Moniz. The supercomputers' use would involve simulations of chemical reactions, fluid dynamics and energy transfer in combustion devices. DOE also wants to use supercomputers to perform advanced modeling of the impact of human activities on global systems, such as weather patterns and climate change.

For more information about DOE's proposed supercomputers and the agency's participation in IT2, visit DOE's Web site at

This article originally appeared in the 04/01/1999 issue of Environmental Protection.

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