Irina Sandu

Senior Scientist
Research Department, Earth System Modelling Section, Physical Processes Group

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Irina joined ECMWF in 2010, and is now leading the Physical Processes Team.  Her research has so far covered boundary layer clouds and the factors controlling their distribution, aerosol-cloud interactions,  turbulent diffusion in stable conditions,  orographic drag  and land-atmosphere coupling.  Irina used a whole spectrum of models  (from idealized theoretical models, to Large Eddy, meso-scale and global NWP models), but also a wide range of datasets (in situ observations, satellite data and reanalysis) to address questions ranging from process understanding to aspects of subgrid parameterizations and model evaluation. 

At ECMWF, Irina's work aims at improving the representation both stable and cloudy boundary layers in the Integrated Forecasting System, and at understanding the impact of surface drag on the large scale atmospheric circulation. In recent years, Irina played an instrumental role in reviving the interest of the international community for the drag processes, and the orographic drag in particular, by highlighting their importance for the large-scale circulation and the uncertainties related to their representation in models. Irina is also now coordinating polar prediction related activities at ECMWF, particularly in the context of the ongoing WMO Year of Polar Prediction and the H2020 project APPLICATE. 

Professional interests: 
  • improving the representation of physical processes in NWP and climate models
  • momentum transport and drag processes, and more particularly orographic drag
  • boundary layers and boundary layer clouds
  • polar prediction 
Career background: 

Irina got a Phd from Meteo-France and Universite Paul Sabatier, Toulouse (2007). Her PhD research based on Large-Eddy Simulations helped demonstrating that aerosol-cloud interactions are far more complex than initially thought and that the current parametrizations used in climate models are inadequate. 

Irina then spent a couple of years as an Alexander von Humboldt post doctoral fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology in Hamburg (2008-2010).  Irina used a combination of observations, reanalysis and Large-Eddy Simulations to study the controlling factors of the stratocumulus to cumulus transitions, one of the most proeminent and difficult to model characteristics of marine boundary layer clouds. Based on this work, Irina proposed, and led, an intercomparison exercise for single column models and Large-Eddy Simulations in the framework of the Global Atmospheric System Studies (GASS) of GEWEX.

At ECMWF,  Irina's most notable achievements include various improvement of low-level winds, which were subject to some of the most longstading errors of the ECWMF forecasts, and a few studies demonstrating the impacts of the uncertainties in the representation of orographic drag in models on the Northern Hemisphere winter circulation at both NWP and climate time scales.

External recognitions: 
  • WCRP/WWRP international prize for model development
  • member of the WMO Polar Prediction Project (PPP) Steering Group
  • member of the GEWEX Global Atmospheric System Studies (GASS) panel
  • member of the scientific advisory committee of Meteo-France
  • external reviewer of the NERC/MetOffice PARACON project