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Yanling Yu

Senior Oceanographer--Retiree






Dr. Yu investigates arctic sea ice and its role in arctic climate and ocean circulation. Analyzing submarine observations, she and her colleagues examine the long-term changes in mean ice thickness and its distribution. She also uses dynamic and thermodynamic models and statistic methods to search for clues as to why some changes have occurred and how these changes can be characterized in both space and time.

She has developed an algorithm to derive arctic thin ice thickness by combining a thermodynamic sea ice model with the satellite observations from Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR) imagery. This algorithm can be used to study the aggregated sea ice properties dependent on thin ice thickness distribution, such as brine flux from growing young ice and large-scale ice strength. Dr. Yu and her colleagues have begun to investigate the interannual variability of arctic landfast ice and its contribution to the freshwater budget on the arctic shelves.

Department Affiliation

Polar Science Center


B.S. Meteorology, Ocean University of Quingdao, China, 1982

M.S. Physical Oceanography, University of Washington, 1990

Ph.D. Physical Oceanography, University of Washington, 1996


2000-present and while at APL-UW

Responses of surface heat flux, sea ice and ocean dynamics in the Chukchi–Beaufort sea to storm passages during winter 2006/2007: A numerical study

Bai, X., H. Hu, J. Wang, Y. Yu, E. Cassano, and J. Maslanik, "Responses of surface heat flux, sea ice and ocean dynamics in the Chukchi–Beaufort sea to storm passages during winter 2006/2007: A numerical study," Deep Sea Res. I, 102, 101-117, doi:10.1016/j.dsr.2015.04.008, 2015.

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1 Aug 2015

This study investigates storm impacts on sea ice, oceanic dynamics, and surface heat flux in the Chukchi–Beaufort Seas using a coupled ice–ocean model (CIOM). Two types of storms affect the study area: Arctic-born cyclones and north-moving Aleutian lows, which lead to strong westerly and easterly winds, respectively. Driven by 6-hourly forcing, the CIOM successfully reproduced the storm impacts. Simulated sea ice movements are comparable to the satellite observations. Storms usually result in fast-moving ice, which is faster than the speed of the surface water, and the gap between sea ice and surface water speed increases with wind speed. Storms can alter the pathways of the Pacific inflow water: with westerly winds, the Pacific inflow water goes no further than the latitude of Wrangel Island, while with easterly winds the Pacific inflow water can flow northward into the interior Arctic basin. Strong easterly winds associated with north-moving Aleutian lows reverse the Alaskan Coastal Current and the Bering Slope Current, and induce upwelling along the north Alaska coast. Westerly winds associated with Arctic-born cyclones act in an opposite way. During the storms, heat loss to the atmosphere is about twice that of normal conditions, which is mainly attributed to increases of the sensible and latent heat fluxes over the open water. Heat loss over ice was quite stable with some small fluctuations in response to the storms.

The Mackenzie Estuary of the Arctic Ocean

Macdonald , R.W., and Y. Yu, "The Mackenzie Estuary of the Arctic Ocean," Handbook Environ. Chem., 91-120, doi:10.1007/698_5_027, 2005.

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7 Oct 2005

The Mackenzie Estuary is a seasonally ice covered, deltaic estuary. It receives over 300 km3 of freshwater and 125 x 106 t of sediment annually in a strongly modulated seasonal cycle. Ice cover plays a crucial role in the physical setting by limiting air--sea interaction (energy and gas exchange), reducing mixing, and withdrawing freshwater from the estuary while leaving behind the bulk of the dissolved components. Few studies have been conducted on estuarine processes occurring in this estuary and, although we can project from temperate estuaries what the important conservative and nonconservative processes are likely to be, the winter encroachment by ice sufficiently alters the physical, chemical, and biological processes that projections from other estuaries will likely be wrong.

Here we discuss how the estuary evolves through the seasonal cycles of temperature, ice cover, river inflow, particle loadings, and winds, and review what is known of the biogeochemical cycling within the estuary. Given that the Arctic is exceptionally vulnerable to change, especially in the marginal seas, it is safe to predict that remote, pristine estuaries of the Arctic are as much at risk in the future as estuaries more directly impacted by human encroachment.

Changes in the thickness distribution of Arctic sea ice between 1958-1970 and 1993-1997

Yu, Y., G.A. Maykut, and D.A. Rothrock, "Changes in the thickness distribution of Arctic sea ice between 1958-1970 and 1993-1997," J. Geophys. Res., 109, 10.1029/2003JC001982, 2004.

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6 Aug 2004

Submarine sonar data collected in the central Arctic Basin during middle and late summer were used to examine differences in the sea ice thickness distribution function g(h) between the periods 1958–1970 and 1993–1997. Cruises during the former period were made in July and August, whereas the 1993–1997 cruises were made in September and October. Seasonal correction was applied to adjust for the differences in thickness. While ice drafts were from only seven submarine cruises and somewhat spatially limited, results indicate that the fractional area covered by open water and first-year ice increased from 0.19 to 0.30 during the time interval. This was balanced by an 11% reduction of level-multiyear and ridged ice. Substantial losses occurred in ice thicker than 2 m, with an increase in the amount of 1–2 m ice. The volume of ice less than 4 m thick remained nearly the same and the total volume decreased about 32%. Losses in the volume of thicker ice increased with increasing thickness. Part of the change in g(h) is likely caused by increased ice area export through Fram Strait in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Because decadal variations in the North Atlantic Oscillation and Arctic Oscillation indices correlate with ice export anomalies, export-induced changes in g(h) probably tend to be cyclical in nature. However, a substantial shift in the peak of g(h) suggests that changes in thermal forcing were also a major factor in the observed thinning.

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