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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


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

Changes in Arctic Ocean circulation from in situ and remotely sensed observations: Synergies and sampling challenges

Morison, J., R. Kwok, and I. Rigor, "Changes in Arctic Ocean circulation from in situ and remotely sensed observations: Synergies and sampling challenges," 35, doi:10.5670/oceanog.2022.111, 2022.

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1 Jun 2022

Both in situ and remote sensing observations of Arctic Ocean hydrography and circulation have improved dramatically in recent decades, and combining the two can yield the most complete picture of Arctic Ocean change. Recent results derived from classical hydrography and satellite ocean altimetry illustrate this synergy and also reveal a fundamental in situ sampling challenge.

Intercomparison of salinity products in the Beaufort Gyre and Arctic Ocean

Hall, S.B., B. Subrahmanyam, and J.H. Morison, "Intercomparison of salinity products in the Beaufort Gyre and Arctic Ocean," Remote Sens., 14, doi:10.3390/rs14010071, 2022.

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1 Jan 2022

Salinity is the primary determinant of the Arctic Ocean's density structure. Freshwater accumulation and distribution in the Arctic Ocean have varied significantly in recent decades and certainly in the Beaufort Gyre (BG). In this study, we analyze salinity variations in the BG region between 2012 and 2017. We use in situ salinity observations from the Seasonal Ice Zone Reconnaissance Surveys (SIZRS), CTD casts from the Beaufort Gyre Exploration Project (BGP), and the EN4 data to validate and compare with satellite observations from Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP), Soil Moisture and Ocean Salinity (SMOS), and Aquarius Optimally Interpolated Sea Surface Salinity (OISSS), and Arctic Ocean models: ECCO, MIZMAS, HYCOM, ORAS5, and GLORYS12. Overall, satellite observations are restricted to ice-free regions in the BG area, and models tend to overestimate sea surface salinity (SSS). Freshwater Content (FWC), an important component of the BG, is computed for EN4 and most models. ORAS5 provides the strongest positive SSS correlation coefficient (0.612) and lowest bias to in situ observations compared to the other products. ORAS5 subsurface salinity and FWC compare well with the EN4 data. Discrepancies between models and SIZRS data are highest in GLORYS12 and ECCO. These comparisons identify dissimilarities between salinity products and extend challenges to observations applicable to other areas of the Arctic Ocean.

The cyclonic mode of Arctic Ocean circulation

Morison, J., R. Kwok, S. Dickinson, R. Andersen, C. Peralta-Ferriz, D. Morison, I. Rigor, S. Dewey, and J. Guthrie, "The cyclonic mode of Arctic Ocean circulation," J. Phys. Oceanogr., 51, 1053–1075, doi:10.1175/JPO-D-20-0190.1, 2021.

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1 Apr 2021

Arctic Ocean surface circulation change should not be viewed as the strength of the anticyclonic Beaufort Gyre. While the Beaufort Gyre is a dominant feature of average Arctic Ocean surface circulation, empirical orthogonal function analysis of dynamic height (1950–1989) and satellite altimetry-derived dynamic ocean topography (2004–-2019) show the primary pattern of variability in its cyclonic mode is dominated by a depression of the sea surface and cyclonic surface circulation on the Russian side of the Arctic Ocean. Changes in surface circulation after AO maxima in 1989 and 2007–08 and after an AO minimum in 2010, indicate the cyclonic mode is forced by the Arctic Oscillation (AO) with a lag of about one year. Associated with a one standard deviation increase in the average AO starting in the early 1990s, Arctic Ocean surface circulation underwent a cyclonic shift evidenced by increased spatial-average vorticity. Under increased AO, the cyclonic mode complex also includes increased export of sea ice and near-surface freshwater, a changed path of Eurasian runoff, a freshened Beaufort Sea, and weakened cold halocline layer that insulates sea ice from Atlantic water heat, an impact compounded by increased Atlantic Water inflow and cyclonic circulation at depth. The cyclonic mode's connection with the AO is important because the AO is a major global scale climate index predicted to increase with global warming. Given the present bias in concentration of in situ measurements in the Beaufort Gyre and Transpolar Drift, a coordinated effort should be made to better observe the cyclonic mode.

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In The News

'It looks like Iron Curtain 2.' Arctic research with Russia curtailed after Ukraine invasion

Science, Warren Cornwall

The fate of Regehr's annual science expedition to Wrangel Island, which offers a critical window into the fate of thousands of polar bears, is just one sign of how the Russian invasion of Ukraine is curtailing research collaborations all over the globe.

4 Mar 2022

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

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