Physical oceanographer and geomorphologist investigating the overturn circulation in the Baltic Sea.
Natalia Herrán got a PhD at the Leibniz Centre for Tropical Marine Research (ZMT) and the University of Bremen. She is now a postdoctoral researcher at the Leibniz Institute for Baltic Sea Research Warnemünde (IOW).
SWOT-AdaC: What is your field of research and how did you choose it?
NH: My field of research is physical oceanography and geomorphology. In this project I will be focusing on the understanding of specific pathways that control and affect the Baltic Sea overturn circulation. I grew up on a small coastal town, watching daily the power of tides and the ocean. When I was 12 years old, I started surfing, which became my hobby and real passion in life. Thanks to this sport I started to be aware of how beautiful and unique marine ecosystems are and how physical interactions play such an important role by shaping, for example, the functionality of such ecosystems.
SWOT AdAC: How is your research related to SWOT?
NH: In the CONWEST-DYCO (Circulation and Mesoscale Dynamics of the Eastern Gotland Basin – model comparison and coupling of high resolution in situ observations combined with Surface Water and Ocean Topography satellite (SWOT) and regional ocean models) campaign we are interested on the overturning circulation of the Baltic Sea. In particular the mesoscale dynamics on the Eastern Gotland Basin. The macro eddy formed there works as major forcing function for the overturning circulation of the Baltic Sea. The SWOT mission will provide valuable high resolution altimetry data, which give us a unique opportunity to depict high resolution geostrophic motion and flow in the Baltic Sea.
SWOT AdAC: What do you find exciting about SWOT and the CONWEST-DYCO campaign and how will you contribute to it?
NH: The development of new methodologies usually comes with high rewards but also great challenges. I am curious to see in high resolution the geostrophic motion of the Eastern Gotland Basin, which until now was only possible by using numerical models. Now we will be able to see if the theory deviates or not from the observations.
SWOT ADAC: What are your plans after the CONWEST-DYCO campaign?
NH: Hopefully we will be able to continue, depending on funding opportunities, with the improvement of mesoscale numerical models in the Baltic Sea based on observational data. The continuation of this kind of research in highly relevant in the Baltic Sea because it is a very sensitive system to global warming. The increase of thermal stratification can affect substantially the whole thermohaline circulation and subsequently residence times in the Baltic Sea which is now thought to be 25 to 30 years.