Cooking an environment. (by Diego Fdez-Sevilla)
(Feb 20, 2014. Comments updated at the bottom of the page)
Sometimes in researching environmental issues I have come to think that the approach chosen in most cases is like looking at an already cooked meal trying to identify the ingredients, the factors such as temperature and the correlations between them. So we look at it by its presence trying to identify if it was needed heat or not to prepare the meal and then the ingredients. If there is no need of heat we will not find any correlation between temperature and the final result or, it will be a negative correlation so if we use it we will no obtain the desired result. From there we can move to complex research for a heat-treated meal where we will start looking at the correlations between ingredients and temperature plus humidity (just because we know that heat induces molecular changes in water making it volatile and therefore it is going to scape from our ingredients making them to dry out)… And what is my point about this? How far correlations are the answer to find the recipe for our environmental questions? I believe that we find environmental situations like we see already cooked meals and that we try to find the recipe behind it. What are the ingredients? and the processes? What is it needed to cook such environment?
I believe that first of all, it is difficult to find correlations as answers when we don´t know the time line involved in the cooking. Correlations can give answers to direct approaches to a direct impulse reaction. Accordingly heat increases temperature but does not mean that it would cook. You only can cook with heat if you can control the temperature, the times and the sequence of processes involved to allow the properties of your ingredients to change in order to obtain the interaction desired to obtain the final meal.
Based on that idea, I like to take more time in identifying combination of parameters which allow or induce changes in the environment instead of taking parameters individually. And the change in the environment use to be an accumulative process as it is in cooking. A pot with two ingredients at the same temperature does not give the same result as if one ingredient reaches a determined temperature, accumulates a period of time under such temperature and following a second ingredient is brought with it.
An example of what I am talking about is the use of Humidity and Temperature to search for correlations or instead looking at what are the changes induced into the properties of the environment by combining these two parameters as one only parameter. One way is by evaluating the Vapour Pressure Deficit which gives the capacity of the atmosphere to take or share water. It affects the transpiration of plants, the atmospheric energy transfer system, the dynamics of pollen atmospheric transport, the formation of clouds, …
What a correlation sometimes does not say is if the effect of one parameter in order to be significant has to be before or after something else has happen.