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Hydrology and Earth System Sciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Discussion papers
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2019-50
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2019-50
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Review article 18 Feb 2019

Review article | 18 Feb 2019

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal Hydrology and Earth System Sciences (HESS).

Using R in hydrology: a review of recent developments and future directions

Louise J. Slater1, Guillaume Thirel2, Shaun Harrigan3, Olivier Delaigue2, Alexander Hurley4, Abdou Khouakhi5, Ilaria Prodoscimi6, Claudia Vitolo3, and Katie Smith7 Louise J. Slater et al.
  • 1School of Geography and the Environment, University of Oxford, OX1 3QY, UK
  • 2IRSTEA, HYCAR Research Unit, 1 rue Pierre-Gilles de Gennes, 92160 Antony, France
  • 3Forecast Department, European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF), Shinfield Park, Reading, RG2 9AX, UK
  • 4School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Birmingham, B15 2TT, UK
  • 5School of Architecture, Civil and Building Engineering, Loughborough University, Loughborough, UK
  • 6Department of Environmental Sciences, Informatics and Statistics, Ca’ Foscari University of Venice, Venice, Italy
  • 7Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, Maclean Building, Crowmarsh Gifford, Wallingford, OX10 8BB, UK

Abstract. The open-source programming language R has gained a central place in the hydrological sciences over the last decade, driven by the availability of diverse hydro-meteorological data archives and the development of open-source computational tools. The growth of R's usage in hydrology is reflected in the number of newly published hydrological packages, the strengthening of online user communities, and the popularity of training courses and events. In this paper, we explore the benefits and advantages of R's usage in hydrology, such as: the democratization of data science and numerical literacy, the enhancement of reproducible research and open science, the access to statistical tools, the ease of connecting R to and from other languages, and the support provided by a growing community. This paper provides an overview of important packages at every step of the hydrological workflow, from the retrieval of hydro-meteorological data, to spatial analysis and cartography, hydrological modelling, statistics, and the design of static and dynamic visualizations, presentations and documents. We discuss some of the challenges that arise when using R in hydrology and useful tools to overcome them, including the use of hydrological libraries, documentation and vignettes (long-form guides that illustrate how to use packages); the role of Integrated Development Environments (IDEs); and the challenges of Big Data and parallel computing in hydrology. Last, this paper provides a roadmap for R's future within hydrology, with R packages as a driver of progress in the hydrological sciences, Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) providing new avenues for data acquisition and provision, enhanced teaching of hydrology in R, and the continued growth of the community via short courses and events.

Louise J. Slater et al.
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Louise J. Slater et al.
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Short summary
This paper explores the benefits and advantages of R's usage in hydrology. We provide an overview of important packages at every step of the hydrological workflow, from the retrieval of hydro-meteorological data, to spatial analysis, hydrological modelling, statistics, and the design of dynamic visualizations and documents. We discuss some of the challenges that arise when using R in hydrology and we propose a roadmap for R’s future within the discipline.
This paper explores the benefits and advantages of R's usage in hydrology. We provide an...
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