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Rebecca Woodgate

Senior Principal Oceanographer

Professor, Oceanography






Dr. Woodgate is a physical oceanographer, specialising in polar research, with special focus on the circulation of the Arctic Ocean, interactions between sea-ice and the ocean, and the role of the polar oceans in climate. Her research concentrates on the collection and analysis of in-situ oceanographic data. She has worked for many years in the deployment and recovery of moored oceanographic instrumentation in ice-covered waters, and the analysis of both mooring and hydrographic data. She is involved in undergraduate teaching and graduate education. She has worked on British, German, Norwegian, and American research vessels and led expeditions to Bering Strait and the Arctic Ocean.

Her first degree is in physics from the University of Cambridge and her PhD (University of Oxford) is in data assimilation in ocean models. Her postdoc work was done at the Alfred-Wegener Institute in Germany.

Dr. Woodgate's research goal is to understand the physical processes in both Arctic and Antarctic regions, and to use her background to bridge the gap between theory, modeling, and real observations of the oceans.

Department Affiliation

Polar Science Center


B.A. Physics & Theoretical Physics, University of Cambridge, Christ's College, 1990

Ph.D. Oceanography, University of Oxford, 1994


High Latitude Dynamics

Year-round subsurface moorings are used to study the Arctic throughout the year. PIs Aagaard and Woodgate focus on mooring and other in situ data to address a variety of Arctic questions - including flow of Atlantic and Pacific waters, interactions between the shelves and the deep basins, and the properties of the Arctic Ocean Boundary Current.


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.


Bering Strait: Pacific Gateway to the Arctic

The Bering Strait is the only Pacific gateway to the Arctic. Since 1990, under various funding, APL-UW has been measuring properties of the Pacific inflow using long-term in situ moorings, supported by annual cruises. Data, papers, cruise reports, plans, and results are available.


More Projects


2000-present and while at APL-UW

Arctic Mediterranean exchanges: A consistent volume budget and trends in transports from two decades of observations

Østerhus, S., and 16 others including R. Woodgate, C.M. Lee, and B. Curry, "Arctic Mediterranean exchanges: A consistent volume budget and trends in transports from two decades of observations," Ocean Sci., 15, 379-399, doi:10.5194/os-15-379-2019, 2019.

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12 Apr 2019

The Arctic Mediterranean (AM) is the collective name for the Arctic Ocean, the Nordic Seas, and their adjacent shelf seas. Water enters into this region through the Bering Strait (Pacific inflow) and through the passages across the Greenland–Scotland Ridge (Atlantic inflow) and is modified within the AM. The modified waters leave the AM in several flow branches which are grouped into two different categories: (1) overflow of dense water through the deep passages across the Greenland–Scotland Ridge, and (2) outflow of light water — here termed surface outflow — on both sides of Greenland. These exchanges transport heat and salt into and out of the AM and are important for conditions in the AM. They are also part of the global ocean circulation and climate system. Attempts to quantify the transports by various methods have been made for many years, but only recently the observational coverage has become sufficiently complete to allow an integrated assessment of the AM exchanges based solely on observations. In this study, we focus on the transport of water and have collected data on volume transport for as many AM-exchange branches as possible between 1993 and 2015. The total AM import (oceanic inflows plus freshwater) is found to be 9.1 Sv (sverdrup, 1 Sv =106 m3 s-1) with an estimated uncertainty of 0.7 Sv and has the amplitude of the seasonal variation close to 1 Sv and maximum import in October. Roughly one-third of the imported water leaves the AM as surface outflow with the remaining two-thirds leaving as overflow. The overflow water is mainly produced from modified Atlantic inflow and around 70% of the total Atlantic inflow is converted into overflow, indicating a strong coupling between these two exchanges. The surface outflow is fed from the Pacific inflow and freshwater (runoff and precipitation), but is still approximately two-thirds of modified Atlantic water. For the inflow branches and the two main overflow branches (Denmark Strait and Faroe Bank Channel), systematic monitoring of volume transport has been established since the mid-1990s, and this enables us to estimate trends for the AM exchanges as a whole. At the 95 % confidence level, only the inflow of Pacific water through the Bering Strait showed a statistically significant trend, which was positive. Both the total AM inflow and the combined transport of the two main overflow branches also showed trends consistent with strengthening, but they were not statistically significant. They do suggest, however, that any significant weakening of these flows during the last two decades is unlikely and the overall message is that the AM exchanges remained remarkably stable in the period from the mid-1990s to the mid-2010s. The overflows are the densest source water for the deep limb of the North Atlantic part of the meridional overturning circulation (AMOC), and this conclusion argues that the reported weakening of the AMOC was not due to overflow weakening or reduced overturning in the AM. Although the combined data set has made it possible to establish a consistent budget for the AM exchanges, the observational coverage for some of the branches is limited, which introduces considerable uncertainty. This lack of coverage is especially extreme for the surface outflow through the Denmark Strait, the overflow across the Iceland–Faroe Ridge, and the inflow over the Scottish shelf. We recommend that more effort is put into observing these flows as well as maintaining the monitoring systems established for the other exchange branches.

Flow patterns in the eastern Chukchi Sea: 2010–2015

Stabeno, P., N. Kachel, C. Ladd, and R. Woodgate, "Flow patterns in the eastern Chukchi Sea: 2010–2015," J. Geophys. Res., 123, 1177-1195, doi:10.1002/2017JC013135, 2018.

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1 Feb 2018

From 2010 to 2015, moorings were deployed on the northern Chukchi Sea at nine sites. Deployment duration varied from 5 years at a site off Icy Cape to 1 year at a site north of Hanna Shoal. In addition, 39 satellite‐tracked drifters (drogue depth 25–30 m) were deployed in the region during 2012–2015. The goals of this manuscript are to describe currents in the Chukchi Sea and their relationship to ice and winds. The north‐south pressure gradient results in, on average, a northward flow over the Chukchi shelf, which is modified by local winds. The volume transport near Icy Cape (~0.4 Sv) was ~40% of flow through Bering Strait and varied seasonally, accounting for >50% of summer and ~20% of winter transport in Bering Strait. Current direction was strongly influenced by bathymetry, with northward flow through the Central Channel and eastward flow south of Hanna Shoal. The latter joined the coastal flow exiting the shelf via Barrow Canyon. Drifter trajectories indicated the transit from Bering Strait to the mouth of Barrow Canyon took ~90 days during the ice‐free season. Most (~70%) of the drifters turned westward at the mouth of Barrow Canyon and continued westward in the Chukchi Slope Current. This slope flow was largely confined to the upper 300 m, and although it existed year‐round, it was strongest in spring and summer. Drifter trajectories indicated that the Chukchi Slope Current extends as far west as the mouth of Herald Canyon. The remaining ~30% of the drifters turned eastward or were intercepted by sea ice.

Increases in the Pacific inflow to the Arctic from 1990 to 2015, and insights into seasonal trends and driving mechanisms from year-round Bering Strait mooring data

Woodgate, R.A., "Increases in the Pacific inflow to the Arctic from 1990 to 2015, and insights into seasonal trends and driving mechanisms from year-round Bering Strait mooring data," Prog. Oceanogr., 160, 124-154, doi:10.1016/j.pocean.2017.12.007, 2018.

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1 Jan 2018


• The Bering Strait inflow to the Arctic increased from 2001 (~0.7 Sv) to 2014 (~1.2 Sv).

• This is due to increasing far-field, pressure-head forcing, not local wind changes.

• Concurrently heat and freshwater fluxes strongly increased (3–5 × 1020 J, 2300–3500 km3).

• Seasonal data show winter freshening, pre-summer warming, summer/fall flow increase.

• A new climatology (1 Sv) for the strait, including seasonality for heat and freshwater.

More Publications

Acoustics Air-Sea Interaction & Remote Sensing Center for Environmental & Information Systems Center for Industrial & Medical Ultrasound Electronic & Photonic Systems Ocean Engineering Ocean Physics Polar Science Center