What worries you? Kurt Polzin humanizes the world of oceanography

Oceanography. I’m viewing the world in tactile and tangible ways.

Oceanography has real elements of discovery and adventure. Kurt Polzin humanizes the stressful responsibilities of million dollar instruments returning from the depths of the ocean.

“I worry obsessively on whether or not a multi-million dollar instrument is going to come back from the depths of the ocean or not.  When it doesn’t come back, I find myself worrying and sitting there on a boat. I listen to its ping and I know where it is more or less.

My interest in science and oceanography started before even graduate school. When I was an undergraduate I got this degree in physics but I knew that I didn’t want to do high-energy physics.  That type of job puts me in a large group situation, in buildings and often underground.

What I felt from oceanography is that it was a little bit more individualistic and there was some adventure that was related to that. With oceanography I go out on a boat and I throw things into the ocean. I’m looking at the world in a very tactile and tangible way.

That took me to Woods Hole. I am from Eastern Washington State. The Evergreen State.  But I’m from the part of the Evergreen State that is semi-arid.  One goes from the mountains into the desert with rattlesnakes and sagebrush.

Well, I left all of that behind and went to graduate school at MIT.  I began working on projects that were related to turbulent mixing. My projects used very specialized instrumentation built here at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Part of my job is to spend a fair amount of time at sea trying to understand what the instrument was doing.  And of course analyzing data the ocean was providing.”

Partial Transcript

Acronym Meanings:

(IPCC is=United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The IPCC was established in 1988 by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to assess scientific, technical and socio-economic information concerning climate change, its potential effects and options for adaptation and mitigation.)

(GCM=general circulation model. It is a type of climate model. It employs a mathematical model of the general circulation of a planetary atmosphere or ocean. These equations are the basis for computer programs used to simulate the Earth's atmosphere or oceans. Atmospheric and oceanic GCMs (AGCM and OGCM) are key components along with sea ice and land-surface components.
GCMs and global climate models are used for weather forecasting, understanding the climate and forecasting climate change.)

(ACC= The Antarctic Circumpolar Current is the most important current in the Southern Ocean, and the only current that flows completely around the globe. The ACC, as it encircles the Antarctic continent, flows eastward through the southern portions of the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific Oceans.)

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