Case studies > Dr.Leonid M. Mitnik Interview

Interview with Dr.Leonid M. Mitnik
レオニード ミトニック 理学博士Photo Dr.Leonid M. Mitnik
Leonid M. Mitnik D.Sc.<Major research themes>
Microwave remote sensing, in particular oil spill monitoring by remote sensing

Applicant’s major achievements and presented papers

  • Leonid M. Mitnik was born in 1938 in Leningrad. Results of his research were presented at many national and international conferences and symposia and published in over 100 refereed papers. He is the recipient of the Goddard Space Flight Center Aqua Outstanding Teamwork Award and Medal, the NASA Aqua Group Achievement Award in 2003 and the PORSEC Distinguished Science Award and Medal in 2004.

Q Please tell me about your background and interest
Q I received a honors Diploma in Electrical Engineering from the Leningrad Electric Engineering Institute in 1961, a Ph.D. degree in Geophysics in 1970 from the State Hydrometeorological Center, Moscow and a Dr.Sci. degree in Remote Aerospace Research in 1996 from the Institute for Space Research, Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS), Moscow. In 1977 I accepted a position at the V.I. Il’ichev Pacific Oceanological Institute, Far Eastern Branch, RAS where I am now a Head of Department of Satellite Oceanography. In 1993-2004 I was a visiting Professor at several Universities in Taiwan, Germany, Japan and China. My research focuses on remote sensing of oceanic and atmospheric phenomena and processes using passive and active microwave techniques as well as on field experiments and computer modeling.
I was involved in the microwave remote sensing of the Earth since launch of Kosmos-243, the first satellite with onboard microwave radiometers. I analyzed data acquired by Russian and foreigner satellites such as Kosmos-384, Kosmos-1500, Ocean series satellites, DMSP, ERS-1, ERS-2, Envisat, ALOS et al. equipped by microwave radiometers and radars and participated in many airplane experiments and ship expeditions in the World Ocean. Using satellite measurements, I studied oceanic and atmospheric dynamic phenomena and processes: currents, eddies, internal waves, sea ice, oil spills, tropical cyclones, polar lows and other. I was principal investigator and co-investigator of many international projects (ESA, ARDO, INTAS, JAXA).
I participated in construction and upgrading of NOWPAP CEARAC web site: “Oil spill monitoring by remote sensing” ( I and my colleagues continue our activity associated with satellite monitoring of the coastal zones and the open sea, in particular, with detection of oil spills in the NOWPAR regions and surrounding seas.

Q Please tell me how you got into the field of remote sensing?
Q The first my position after my graduation from the Institute was a Radio Engineer at the Scientific Research Institute, Ministry of Electronics in Leningrad. I was involved in development of radar receiver, in particular, in construction of optimal filters for processing of chirp radar signals (signals with linear change of frequency within impulse. Such signals are used now in satellite SARs and altimeters). I also participated in tuning and testing of radar systems. In four years, I moved to the Institute of Radio Engineering and Electronics, RAS, Moscow where I began to study such astrophysical problems as microwave background radiation, masers in interstellar medium, pulsars, etc. and planned to submit my PhD degree using radio astronomy techniques. To solve radio astronomical tasks I studied in details the microwave atmospheric emission, its dependence on water vapor content, cloud liquid water content and frequency to decrease influence of atmospheric interference on observations of cosmic emission. Detailed calculations as well as the measurements I carried out at several large radio telescopes during 2.5 years have shown, however, that sensitivity and stability of available microwave radiometers was insufficient to estimate accurately the background radiation. It was then that Kosmos-243 satellite with four nadir-viewing microwave radiometers was launched. I was invited to process and analyze the global experimental data. My experience in atmospheric interference research helped me to investigate variability of water vapor over the ocean using satellite passive microwave data, to submit and defense PhD thesis for two years only. Then I participated in many airplane, ship and satellite microwave experiments. Since 1983 when Kosmos-1500 satellite with a X-band real aperture radar was launched I study the oceanic and atmospheric phenomena using both active and passive microwave techniques. And again, my engineer experience was very useful to understand the features of radar remote sensing of the ocean.

With colleagues and sputnik miniature

Q Please tell me about what is like to be living in Vladivostok as a scientist.
Q In Vladivostok and at recently organized Pacific Oceanological Institute, I had more opportunities to advance my scientific research and simultaneously more freedom and independence compare to my previous positions in Moscow and in Leningrad. Usually, the POI arranged several ship expeditions in remote oceanic areas every year and I began to study the ocean-atmosphere system not only from space but from research vessels using microwave radiometers and other techniques. I performed measurements in the Pacific, Indian and Atlantic Oceans under different weather conditions and simultaneously became aware of many new things from my colleagues, which conducted hydrological, geological, acoustic, optical etc. observations. It was very important for interpretation of satellite observations.

On the sea ice with wife
On the sea ice with wife

Q Do you have any message for young scientists?
Q In my opinion, study of our planet, and, in particular, the ocean using remote sensing is very attractive but simultaneously complicated problem. To solve successfully plentiful regional and global tasks and to interpret reliably satellite data, young scientists should muster several different but interrelated disciplines including oceanography, meteorology, radiative transfer, sensors, inverse problem solution, image processing, etc. I would like to emphasize that it is very important to study the ocean not only using computer but during ship expeditions. They give to everybody many lively unforgettable impressions.
(Interview date: January, 2009)