Postdoc Martina Idzanovic´s path into ocean modelling

Photo: Martina Idzanovic, and Christoffer Engstrom/Unsplash.

Martina, where are you from, and what is your study and/or work background?

I was born in Croatia but spent part of my childhood in Germany. I guess, my study background isn’t a typical oceanographer’s path. I did my bachelor’s in geodesy and geoinformatics at the Faculty of Geodesy in Zagreb, Croatia. In my master’s, I specialized in geodesy and spent my last semester at the Technical University of Munich as an ERASMUS exchange student, where I wrote my master’s thesis about gravity-field modelling combining satellite, airborne, and terrestrial gravity data. In 2015, I came to Norway for my PhD studies at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences in Ås. The thesis explores possibilities of mean-dynamic-topography and surface-current determination in the Norwegian coastal zone by the geodetic approach using novel SAR-altimetry data and analyses glacial isostatic adjustment in Fennoscandia.

What motivates you to spend time with your research?

During my PhD, I was introduced to satellite altimetry and its ability of mapping sea surface topography and measuring sea-level changes on a global scale as well as to its weaknesses in terms of resolution, land contamination of radar footprints, and degraded corrections applied onto altimetry observations. In combination, all these factors result in observational gaps in areas of high interest, e.g., in coastal zones. Addressing exactly those weaknesses, either of observations or models, and finding a way around, in order to improve desired variables, is what keeps me going. Plus, it’s really motivating to work at MET Norway on operational services, which are being used in real time by users. Being a user myself, gave me an opportunity to gain an insight into the user community’s needs and various application areas, and it’s exciting to now be on the other end of the data stream.

How will your research make a difference for people and companies that are operating in icy waters?

Operational ocean, sea-ice, and weather-forecast models are of crucial importance for onshore and offshore activities as well as infrastructure. Applications such as search-and-rescue operations or ice-berg-drift forecasts require modelling in real time into the future, with high spatial and temporal resolution. A current weakness in most regional ocean-model systems is that geostrophic current fields exhibit poor predictability for surface currents on scales needed in trajectory forecasts.

The Barents-2.5 ensemble is MET Norway’s main forecasting model for the ocean state in the Barents Sea, in particular for strategic and tactical route planning, oil-spill modelling, ice-berg-drift forecasting as well as identification of search areas during search-and-rescue missions. Therefore, its development and improvement is of crucial importance for its users. My current work is focusing on assessing the quality and spread of the ensemble as well as on developing diagnostic tools for evaluating ocean ensembles. In addition, I work on the SLABAR project as project leader, which has been granted funding early January this year by the Norwegian Space Agency. Within the project, we aim to exploit the high-resolution Barents-2.5 ensemble in combination with novel SAR-altimetry data in order to improve MET Norway’s capability in ocean-current forecasting for providing, e.g., better trajectory forecasts as used in search and rescue.

What benefits do you expect for your professional development?

Ocean and sea-ice modelling is a quite new field for me and I’m acquiring new knowledge on a daily basis. This time, I get to address surface currents from a modeller’s perspective instead of the observational side. High-resolution ensemble forecasting using regional ocean models is also a relatively new field, and it’s not yet clear how to use the ensemble data from regional ocean models for trajectory forecasts as well as how reliable the forecasts are in general. Being thrown into a new field is extremely challenging but also very exciting. I’m really grateful that I got the opportunity to join MET Norway and work on exciting topics highly relevant for society.

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