The new wave of oceanographers: Rick de Kreij

PhD student using satellite measurements to estimate submesoscale and sea surface currents in the North West Australia Shelf region. 

Rick de Kreij obtained a Master’s degree in fluid mechanics from the Eindhoven University of Technology (NL). During that time, he completed his graduation project at the University of Cambridge (UK) investigating the spread of airborne diseases in a train carriage. In March 2022, he started his PhD at the UWA Ocean Dynamics group to research how satellite observations can be used to estimate surface currents. 

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

Rick de Kreij: I am investigating the use of satellite measurements to estimate submesoscale sea surface currents (SSCs). These SSCs drive the distributions of surface tracers, such as temperature, chlorophyll, and sea level. Unfortunately, the direct measurement of SSCs is difficult over large spatial scales. However, we are working on a novel method that allows us to estimate the SSCs from satellite sea surface temperature (SST) and sea surface height (SSH) data. The constructed framework is a statistical inversion method, build around a Gaussian Process Regression. The main benefit of this method is that it not only estimates the SSCs but also quantifies the uncertainty of the estimates. These novel methods aim to supply ground-breaking tools to study submesoscale features. In addition, this work will aid offshore oil and gas operations, pollution responses, and a variety of other applications. 

I have chosen this field of research due to my large interest in ocean dynamics and its relation to the global climate. The scale and complexity of the ocean are things that keep amazing me. 

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

RdK: As mentioned before, my work focuses on estimating SSCs using SST and SSH. Here, the SSH of the high-resolution 2D SWOT measurements will be used to improve the SSC estimates. In our statistical approach, the geostrophic SSCs estimated from the SWOT data will be used as background flows. Subsequently, these flows will be combined with the SST inversion algorithms relying on Gaussian processes, promising to advance both the accuracy and precision of SSCs. The required techniques are developed based on the North West Australia Shelf and will be modified to be globally applicable.

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

RdK: I find the SWOT analysis and the North West Australia Shelf campaign exciting because they provide a unique opportunity of studying the dynamics of the ocean using SSH. Furthermore, it can be used to improve our understanding of ocean circulation and its role in the Earth’s climate system. Additionally, the North West Australia Shelf campaign will allow me to participate in the analyses and directly incorporate the data in our research projects to improve the understanding of submesoscale SSCs. This is an exciting opportunity to be part of cutting-edge research that can have a significant impact on our understanding of the ocean and its role in the Earth’s climate system.

SWOT AdAC: What are your plans after the North West Australia Shelf campaign?

RdK: After the campaign, I plan to continue my research in the estimation of SSCs from remotely sensed data. Furthermore, I aim to stay engaged in the network around the North West Australia Shelf campaign and to publish my findings in high-quality scientific journals. With the advanced technology of the SWOT mission, I am convinced this will result in many new research opportunities.