Dr Hiroshi Sumata
Sea-ice Physicist at the AWI
Even in his school days, Hiroshi dreamed of someday being a polar researcher himself. Accordingly, he studied Oceanography and subsequently worked as a modeller at various institutes throughout Japan. Since the polar research community in Japan is quite small, he later joined the AWI, which gave him the opportunity to work in his preferred research area.
For meereisportal.de he’s primarily working on sea-ice drift models, and on calculating the uncertainties in various models. These uncertainties are due to the fact that there are several different methods for measuring sea ice and mapping its movement, but each analytical method is prone to certain forms of systematic error. Hiroshi’s work, though highly theoretical, is also essential to producing reliable drift models.
His personal reasons for contributing to meereisportal.de are, among others, a desire to inspire the next generation of researchers, just as he was inspired.
Why is it important to be able to track sea-ice drift?
For one thing, sea-ice drift has a major influence on how much ice the Arctic exports into the North Atlantic, and that aspect in turn has an effect on the global ‘conveyor belt’ of ocean currents, which shapes the climate in Europe. These interactions between the sea ice and climate are one of the reasons why we monitor how much sea ice is exported from the Arctic, and why we need uncertainty estimates to help us use our recorded data.
How can you tell whether a given method was successful, or whether you got something wrong?
On the one hand, of course we compare the outcomes with the actual observational data, so as to validate and, if necessary, adapt the models. On the other, there are plenty of experts pursuing similar work in other countries or at other institutes, and with whom we can compare and discuss our findings. This type of collaboration works very well, and ultimately delivers reliable advances.
In your opinion, does meereisportal.de effectively prepare information in such a way that the general public can understand it?
That’s a difficult question for me to answer, since I would need a German dictionary to read the texts myself. But what I feel makes meereisportal.de unique is the combination of various levels of information: one page features a collection of expedition photos, to offer a first impression of sea-ice research. Users who want to learn more can read the background texts, and those who are truly interested in the topic can consult the extensive data presented; so there’s something for every level of interest.
My personal hero is …
There are many researchers who have personally inspired me. An obvious choice is Alfred Wegener himself, since he was the first to propose the theory of continental drift, which actually changed the way people viewed the world. I very much admire researchers who have achieved such breakthroughs.