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Jinlun Zhang

Senior Principal Oceanographer






Dr. Zhang is interested in understanding how air-ice-ocean interaction in polar oceans affects polar and global climate. He investigates properties of polar air-ice-ocean systems using large- scale sea ice and ocean models. His recent work has focused on examining the evolution of the sea ice cover and the upper ocean in the Arctic in response to a significant climate change recently observed in the northern polar ocean.

He has developed a coupled global ice-ocean model to study the responses of sea ice to different conditions of surface heat fluxes and the effects of sea ice growth/decay on oceanic thermohaline circulation. He is also interested in developing next-generation sea ice models which capture anisotropic nature of ice dynamics. Dr. Zhang joined the Laboratory in 1994

Department Affiliation

Polar Science Center


B.S. Shipbuilding & Ocean Engineering, Harbin Shipbuilding Engineering Institute, China, 1982

M.S. Ship Fluid Dynamics & Ocean Engineering, China Ship Scientific Research Center, 1984

Ph.D. Ice and Ocean Dynamics, Thayer School of Engineering, Dartmouth College, 1993


Changing Sea Ice and the Bering Sea Ecosystem

Part of the BEST (Bering Sea Ecosystem Study) Project, this study will use high-resolution modeling of Bering Sea circulation to understand past change in the eastern Bering climate and ecosystem and to predict the timing and scope of future change.


The Arctic Ocean Model Intercomparison Project (AOMIP): Synthesis and Integration

The AOMIP science goals are to validate and improve Arctic Ocean models in a coordinated fashion and investigate variability of the Arctic Ocean and sea ice at seasonal to decadal time scales, and identify mechanisms responsible for the observed changes. The project's practical goals are to maintain and enhance the established AOMIP international collaboration to reduce uncertainties in model predictions (model validation and improvements via coordinated experiments and studies); support synthesis across the suite of Arctic models; organize scientific meetings and workshops; conduct collaboration with other MIPs with a special focus on model improvements and analysis; disseminate findings of AOMIP effort to broader communities; and train a new generation of ocean and sea-ice modelers.


The Impact of Changes in Arctic Sea Ice on the Marine Planktonic Ecosystem- Synthesis and Modeling of Retrospective and Future Conditions

This work will investigate the historical and contemporary changes of arctic sea ice, water column, and aspects of the marine ecosystem as an integrated entity, and project future changes associated with a diminished arctic ice cover under several plausible warming scenarios.


More Projects


2000-present and while at APL-UW

Circulation of Pacific Winter Water in the western Arctic Ocean

Zhong, W., M. Steele, J. Zhang, and S.T. Cole, "Circulation of Pacific Winter Water in the western Arctic Ocean," J. Geophys. Res., EOR, doi:10.1029/2018JC014604, 2019.

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16 Jan 2019

Pacific Winter Water (PWW) enters the western Arctic Ocean from the Chukchi Sea; however, the physical mechanisms that regulate its circulation within the deep basin are still not clear. Here, we investigate the interannual variability of PWW with a comprehensive data set over a decade. We quantify the thickening and expansion of the PWW layer during 2002–2016, as well as its changing pathway. The total volume of PWW in the Beaufort Gyre (BG) region is estimated to have increased from 3.48 ± 0.04 x 1014 m3 during 2002–2006 to 4.11 ± 0.02 x 1014 m3 during 2011–2016, an increase of 18%. We find that the deepening rate of the lower bound of PWW is almost double that of its upper bound in the northern Canada Basin, a result of lateral flux convergence of PWW (via lateral advection of PWW from the Chukchi Borderland) in addition to the Ekman pumping. In particular, of the 70‐m deepening of PWW at its lower bound observed over 2003–2011 in the northwestern basin, 43% resulted from lateral flux convergence. We also find a redistribution of PWW in recent years toward the Chukchi Borderland associated with the wind‐driven spin‐up and westward shift of the BG. Finally, we hypothesize that a recently observed increase of lower halocline eddies in the BG might be explained by this redistribution, through a compression mechanism over the Chukchi Borderland.

What caused the remarkable February 2018 North Greenland polynya?

Moore, G.W.K., A. Schweiger, J. Zhang, and M. Steele, "What caused the remarkable February 2018 North Greenland polynya?" Geophys. Res. Lett., 45, 13,342-13,350, doi:10.1029/2018GL080902, 2018.

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28 Dec 2018

During late February and early March 2018, an unusual polynya was observed off the north coast of Greenland. This period was also notable for the occurrence of a sudden stratospheric warming. Here we use satellite and in situ data, a reanalysis and an ice‐ocean model to document the evolution of the polynya and its synoptic forcing. We show that its magnitude was unprecedented and that it was associated with the transient response to the sudden stratospheric warming leading to anomalous warm southerly flow in north Greenland. Indeed, regional wind speeds and temperatures were the highest during February going back to the 1960s. There is evidence that the thinning sea ice has increased its wind‐driven mobility. However, we show that the polynya would have developed under thicker ice conditions representative of the late 1970s and that even with the predicted trend toward thinner sea ice, it will only open during enhanced southerly flow.

Melt pond conditions on declining Arctic sea ice over 1979–2016: Model development, validation, and results

Zhang, J., A. Schwieger, M. Webster, B. Light, M. Steele, C. Ashjian, R. Campbell, and Y. Spitz, "Melt pond conditions on declining Arctic sea ice over 1979–2016: Model development, validation, and results," J. Geophys. Res., 123, 7983-8003, doi:10.1029/2018JC014298, 2018.

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1 Nov 2018

A melt pond (MP) distribution equation has been developed and incorporated into the Marginal Ice‐Zone Modeling and Assimilation System to simulate Arctic MPs and sea ice over 1979–2016. The equation differs from previous MP models and yet benefits from previous studies for MP parameterizations as well as a range of observations for model calibration. Model results show higher magnitude of MP volume per unit ice area and area fraction in most of the Canada Basin and the East Siberian Sea and lower magnitude in the central Arctic. This is consistent with Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer observations, evaluated with Measurements of Earth Data for Environmental Analysis (MEDEA) data, and closely related to top ice melt per unit ice area. The model simulates a decrease in the total Arctic sea ice volume and area, owing to a strong increase in bottom and lateral ice melt. The sea ice decline leads to a strong decrease in the total MP volume and area. However, the Arctic‐averaged MP volume per unit ice area and area fraction show weak, statistically insignificant downward trends, which is linked to the fact that MP water drainage per unit ice area is increasing. It is also linked to the fact that MP volume and area decrease relatively faster than ice area. This suggests that overall the actual MP conditions on ice have changed little in the past decades as the ice cover is retreating in response to Arctic warming, thus consistent with the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer observations that show no clear trend in MP area fraction over 2000–2011.

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In The News

February's big patch of open water off Greenland? Not global warming, says new analysis

UW News, Hannah Hickey

In February 2018, a vast expanse of open water appeared in the sea ice above Greenland, a region that normally has sea ice well into the spring. The big pool of open water in the middle of the ice, known as a polynya, was a scientific puzzle.

18 Dec 2018

Arctic sea ice volume, now tracking record low, stars in data visualization

UW News and Information, Hannah Hickey

The Pan-Arctic Ice Ocean Modeling and Assimilation System (PIOMAS) combines weather observations, sea-surface temperature and satellite pictures of ice coverage to compute ice volume and then compares that with on-the-ground measurements. PIOMAS ice numbers starred in an animated graphic posted this week by a climate scientist at the University of Reading.

7 Jul 2016

UW researchers attend sea ice conference — above the Arctic Circle

UW News and Information, Hannah Hickey

University of Washington polar scientists are on Alaska’s North Slope this week for the 2016 Barrow Sea Ice Camp. Supported by the National Science Foundation, the event brings together U.S.-based sea ice observers, satellite experts and modelers at various career stages to collect data and discuss issues related to measuring and modeling sea ice. The goal is to integrate the research community in order to better observe and understand the changes in Arctic sea ice.

1 Jun 2016

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