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Jamie Morison

Senior Principal Oceanographer

Affiliate Professor, Oceanography






Dr. Morison's main focus centers on the study of Arctic Ocean change. He has been the principal investigator for the NSF-supported North Pole Environmental Observatory since 2000. He is involved with using remote sensing, principally NASA's Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE), to track changes in Arctic Ocean circulation and freshwater distribution. He is also continuing a long-term interest in small-scale processes by studying interplay among Arctic change, internal waves and mixing.

Department Affiliation

Polar Science Center


B.S. Mechanical Engineering, University of California at Davis, 1969

M.S. Mechanical Engineering, University of California at Davis, 1971

Ph.D. Geophysics, University of Washington, 1980


Stratified Ocean Dynamics of the Arctic — SODA

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31 Oct 2016

Vertical and lateral water properties and density structure with the Arctic Ocean are intimately related to the ocean circulation, and have profound consequences for sea ice growth and retreat as well as for prpagation of acoustic energy at all scales. Our current understanding of the dynamics governing arctic upper ocean stratification and circulation derives largely from a period when extensive ice cover modulated the oceanic response to atmospheric forcing. Recently, however, there has been significant arctic warming, accompanied by changes in the extent, thickness distribution, and properties of the arctic sea ice cover. The need to understand these changes and their impact on arctic stratification and circulation, sea ice evolution, and the acoustic environment motivate this initiative.

North Pole Environmental Observatory

The observatory is staffed by an international research team that establishes a camp at the North Pole each spring to take the pulse of the Arctic Ocean and learn how the world's northernmost sea helps regulate global climate.


Study of Environmental Arctic Change

SEARCH is an interagency effort to understand the nature, extent, and future development of the system-scale change presently seen in the Arctic. These changes are occuring across terrestrial, oceanic, atmospheric, and human systems.



Arctic Sea Ice Extent and Volume Dip to New Lows

By mid-September, the sea ice extent in the Arctic reached the lowest level recorded since 1979 when satellite mapping began.

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15 Oct 2012

APL-UW polar oceanographers and climatologists are probing the complex ice–ocean–atmosphere system through in situ and remote sensing observations and numerical model simulations to learn how and why.

Changing Freshwater Pathways in the Arctic Ocean

Freshening in the Canada Basin of the Arctic Ocean began in the 1990s. Polar scientist Jamie Morison and colleagues report new insights on the freshening based in part on Arctic-wide views from two satellite system.

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5 Jan 2012

The Arctic Ocean is a repository for a tremendous amount of river runoff, especially from several huge Russian rivers. During the spring of 2008, APL-UW oceanographers on a hydrographic survey in the Arctic detected major shifts in the amount and distribution of fresh water. The Canada basin had freshened, but had the entire Arctic Ocean?

Analysis of satellite records shows that salinity increased on the Russian side of the Arctic and decreased in the Beaufort Sea on the Canadian side. With an Arctic-wide view of circulation from satellite sensors, researchers were able to determine that atmospheric forcing had shifted the transpolar drift counterclockwise and driven Russian runoff east to the Canada Basin.

Oceanography from Space

In the North Atlantic and Arctic oceans observations by sensors on orbiting satellites are giving oceanographers insight to ocean processes on vast spatial and temporal scales.

1 Dec 2011


2000-present and while at APL-UW

Sea state bias of ICESat in the subarctic seas

Morison, J., R. Kwok, S. Dickinson, D. Morison, C. Peralta-Ferriz, and R. Andersen, "Sea state bias of ICESat in the subarctic seas," IEEE Geosci. Remote Sens. Lett., 15, 1144-1148, doi:10.1109/LGRS.2018.2834362, 2018.

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1 Aug 2018

The fine spatial resolution of laser altimeters makes them potentially valuable to oceanography studying features at mesoscale, close to land, and in the marginal ice zone. To fulfill this promise, we must understand laser sea state bias (SSB). SSB occurs in the measurement of sea surface height in the presence of waves when the altimeter observations are preferentially influenced by particular parts (e.g., wave troughs) of the wave-covered surface. Radar altimeters have received considerable attention relating radar SSB to wave properties and wind speed. Comparatively, little attention has been devoted to the SSB of laser altimeters, and the studies of laser SSB which have been done have led to indeterminate or ambiguous results even as to sign. Here, we find that to make changes in satellite dynamic ocean topography (DOT) from the Ice, Clouds, and Land Elevation Satellite (ICESat) period, 2004–2009, to the CryoSat-2 period, 2011–2015, consistent with hydrography plus ocean bottom pressure in the subarctic Greenland and Norwegian seas, we need to correct the ICESat DOT for SSB. On average, ICESat SSB is –18% of significant wave height in excess of 1.7 m.

Arctic ice–ocean coupling and gyre equilibration observed with remote sensing

Dewey, S., J. Morison, R. Kwok, S. Dickinson, D. Morison, and R. Andersen, "Arctic ice–ocean coupling and gyre equilibration observed with remote sensing," Geophys. Res. Lett., 45, 1499-1508, doi:10.1002/2017GL076229, 2018.

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16 Feb 2018

Model and observational evidence has shown that ocean current speeds in the Beaufort Gyre have increased and recently stabilized. Because these currents rival ice drift speeds, we examine the potential for the Beaufort Gyre's shift from a system in which the wind drives the ice and the ice drives a passive ocean to one in which the ocean often, in the absence of high winds, drives the ice. The resultant stress exerted on the ocean by the ice and the resultant Ekman pumping are reversed, without any change in average wind stress curl. Through these curl reversals, the ice‐ocean stress provides a key feedback in Beaufort Gyre stabilization. This manuscript constitutes one of the first observational studies of ice‐ocean stress inclusive of geostrophic ocean currents, by making use of recently available remote sensing data.

A meteoric water budget for the Arctic Ocean

Alkire, M.B., J. Morison, A. Schweiger, J. Zhang, M. Steele, C. Peralta-Ferriz, and S. Dickinson, "A meteoric water budget for the Arctic Ocean," J. Geophys. Res., EOR, doi:10.1002/2017JC012807, 2017.

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6 Oct 2017

A budget of meteoric water (MW = river runoff, net precipitation minus evaporation, and glacial meltwater) over four regions of the Arctic Ocean is constructed using a simple box model, regional precipitation-evaporation estimates from reanalysis data sets, and estimates of import and export fluxes derived from the literature with a focus on the 2003–2008 period. The budget indicates an approximate/slightly positive balance between MW imports and exports (i.e., no change in storage); thus, the observed total freshwater increase observed during this time period likely resulted primarily from changes in non-MW freshwater components (i.e., increases in sea ice melt or Pacific water and/or a decrease in ice export). Further, our analysis indicates that the MW increase observed in the Canada Basin resulted from a spatial redistribution of MW over the Arctic Ocean. Mean residence times for MW were estimated for the Western Arctic (5–7 years), Eastern Arctic (3–4 years), and Lincoln Sea (1–2 years). The MW content over the Siberian shelves was estimated (~14,000 km3) based on a residence time of 3.5 years. The MW content over the entire Arctic Ocean was estimated to be ≥ 44,000 km3. The MW export through Fram Strait consisted mostly of water from the Eastern Arctic (3237 ± 1370 km3 yr-1) whereas the export through the Canadian Archipelago was nearly equally derived from both the Western Arctic (1182 ± 534 km3 yr-1) and Lincoln Sea (972 ± 391 km3 yr-1).

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In The News

UW polar scientists advised NASA on upcoming ICESat-2 satellite

UW News, Hannah Hickey

NASA plans to launch a new satellite this month that will measure elevation changes on Earth with unprecedented detail. Once in the air, it will track shifts in the height of polar ice, mountain glaciers and even forest cover around the planet. Two University of Washington polar scientists are advising the ICESat-2 mission, provided expertise on the massive glaciers covering Antarctica and Greenland, and sea surface height in the Arctic and other oceans.

10 Sep 2018

UW scientists working with NASA to monitor Earth's ice loss

KING 5, Glenn Farley

This Saturday, NASA will launch a high-resolution satellite designed primarily to measure the status of the world's ice.

10 Sep 2018

Post-shutdown, UW Arctic research flights resume

UW News and Information, Hannah Hickey

After a couple of stressful weeks during the federal government shutdown, University of Washington researchers are back at work monitoring conditions near the North Pole. November has been busy for UW scientists studying winter storms, glacier melt and floating sea ice.

18 Nov 2013

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