DPG Summer School: “Physics of the Ocean”, Bad Honnef, Germany

Our magical home and a German Hogwarts.

By Xuerong Qin and Christopher Bull

Chris and Shirley started their magical European adventure in Germany at the Physikzentrum or “German Hogwarts”, in the sleepy little town of Bad Honnef. The Physikzentrum was our base of operations for a series of lecturers, workshops and outdoor activities for the DPG Physics of the Ocean summer school.

People attend summer schools for two reasons, to immerse oneself in the current research and to network. The school organiser, Martin Visbeck, thought the best way to accomplish the latter is through speed dating! Martin separated us into two groups and made the groups walk towards each other to find a date. Upon prompting, we discussed everything from our research to hobbies outside of work. It was certainly effective in getting to know so many new faces.

This was followed by one week of stimulating lectures starting with an overview of oceanography and moving on to mixing, observational methods, small-scale processes and biogeochemistry. In the evenings, research by the students was showcased during the poster session. We learned about all sorts of exciting research from how topography affects mixing to using seals to study currents. Meal times and evening drinks provided ample opportunities to talk to both our peers and the lecturers about their research. Shirley discovered a possible new explanation for her Lagrangian pathways that had been niggling her for ages and Chris met a number of students interested in using Lagrangian tools.

A highlight of the school was the super-problems. We were divided into groups and assigned a question such as “What would happen to the oceans if the moon disappeared?” or “How would the Antarctic Circumpolar Current be affected with the closing of the Drake passage?” We were tasked with creating a 15 minute presentation to answer our group’s question, the catch being allowed only one electronic slide. The final presentations were rather entertaining, they involved: charades, dancing, news reports, Q&A panels, and human models of the ocean where we finally know how the ACC worked in detail!

It wasn’t all classroom activities. Halfway through the summer school, we took a break and spent an afternoon hiking up the local mountain. At the top, we were rewarded with beautiful views of the Rhein valley. In typical European style, we found ourselves at a neat little café where we stuffed ourselves with delicious cake and listened to some (less typical) locals playing Bavarian Alphorns. Whilst the Germans attendants were quick to point out that the horns weren’t exactly local, everyone else loved it!

The international food selection was another highlight. We were incredibly well (over) fed with a large selection of substantial German bread, German beer, cheese, desserts and more cheese. The cheese was so good, Chris wished he lived in Germany!

Shirley then went off to Toulouse, France to visit Alex Ganachaud and others, Laboratoire d’Etudes en Géophysique et Océanographie Spatiales LEGOS. She spent two days discussing and presenting tropical Pacific circulation research. Besides interacting with the wonderful people at LEGOS, Shirley spent some time relaxing in Toulouse; a lovely city filled with pink buildings.

We would like to thank the Centre of Excellence for supporting our trip to Germany, we have come back smarter and with new network of northern friends. Additionally, Shirley would like to thank Alex Ganachaud for providing the funds to visit LEGOS in Toulouse.

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