The new wave of oceanographers: Anıl Akpınar

Postdoctoral researcher focusing on observational physical oceanography through remote sensing and autonomous instruments.

Anıl Akpınar got his PhD in physical oceanography at the Institute of Marine Sciences, Middle East Technical University (METU), Turkey, and then worked as a postdoctoral researcher at IFREMER, France, and at the National Oceanography Centre, UK. He is now back at METU where he collaborates in the Marmara Sea campaign in Bettina Fach’s research group.

SWOT AdAC: What is your field of research and how did you choose it?

Anıl Akpınar: I’m an observational physical oceanographer with a keen interest in remote sensing and autonomous instruments. My research interests include, but are not limited to: water mass formation, cross-shelf exchanges, general circulation/hydrography and their impact on the ecosystem in shelf seas. I’m mostly interested in shelf seas because of their dynamic nature and their significance for the world ocean (e.g. productivity, biogeochemical cycles).  I’ve chosen to work with observations, from autonomous instruments in particular because I share “Stommel’s vision” for the ocean, and I believe we are lucky to be in an era in which we can witness its actualization.  

SWOT AdAC: How is your field of research related to SWOT?

AA: My research often evolves around meso-scale and sub-mesoscale features in the ocean. I often use satellite data in my research, particularly from altimeters. Present satellite altimetry data is not sufficient to resolve certain features we observe in shelf seas. For example, I am currently investigating fronts and cross-frontal exchanges and in doing so I’m mostly limited to sea surface temperature and ocean-color satellites as they provide the necessary resolution, while existing altimetry satellites do not. SWOT will fill this gap. Furthermore, SWOT will provide a synoptic view of the surface circulation, of which our knowledge is limited (e.g. seasonal sampling) for certain regions.

My research includes the shelf-break, which is the key area for shelf and open ocean exchanges. Unfortunately, there is no dedicated sampling array for the shelf-break, unlike the open ocean (e.g. Argo floats), and existing altimetry data have low resolution. Overall, SWOT will be a significant tool for my research, along with ship-borne and autonomous measurements.

SWOT AdAC: What do you find exciting about SWOT and the SWOT-AdAC campaign in which you will be participating? How will you contribute to the campaign?

AA: SWOT will enhance our knowledge of ocean circulation, particularly in under sampled regions, such as in the Marmara Sea, where our SWOT-AdAC campaign will take place. Unfortunately, existing altimetry missions cannot resolve the dynamics in Marmara Sea, a unique and very dynamic region with dense human activity. In recent years outbreaks of mucilage (i.e. sea snot) have increased both public/media attention and research in the region, however observations of Marmara Sea circulation are limited to in situ measurements. SWOT will provide a synoptic sampling for the surface circulation of this dynamic shelf sea. In this campaign, we will combine in situ measurements and modelling efforts with SWOT data and we will have a chance to observe and test the impacts of meso-scale and sub-mesoscale features on phytoplankton blooms and observed hypoxia in Marmara Sea. SWOT will potentially change the future of in situ sampling in Marmara Sea, by providing the opportunity to observe surface circulation before scientific missions. I will contribute to the design of the in situ sampling strategy and participate in the sampling as well as in the interpretation of collected data.

SWOT AdAC: What are your plans after the Marmara Sea campaign?

AA: I plan to use SWOT data regularly in my future research and I’m hoping SWOT data will help me investigate the questions I already have, particularly on smaller scales.

I also hope that SWOT AdAC consortium will lead to further collaborations and future projects.