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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

An evaluation of Antarctic sea-ice thickness from the Global Ice-Ocean Modeling and Assimilation System based on in situ and satellite observations

Liao, S., H. Luo, J. Wang, Q. Shi, J. Zhang, and Q. Yang, "An evaluation of Antarctic sea-ice thickness from the Global Ice-Ocean Modeling and Assimilation System based on in situ and satellite observations," Cryosphere, 16, 1807-1819, doi:10.5194/tc-16-1807-2022, 2022.

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11 May 2022

Antarctic sea ice is an important component of the Earth system. However, its role in the Earth system is still unclear due to limited Antarctic sea-ice thickness (SIT) data. A reliable sea-ice reanalysis can be useful to study Antarctic SIT and its role in the Earth system. Among various Antarctic sea-ice reanalysis products, the Global Ice-Ocean Modeling and Assimilation System (GIOMAS) output is widely used in the research of Antarctic sea ice. As more Antarctic SIT observations with quality control are being released, a further evaluation of Antarctic SIT from GIOMAS is conducted in this study based on in situ and satellite observations. Generally, though only sea-ice concentration is assimilated, GIOMAS can basically reproduce the observed variability in sea-ice volume and its changes in the trend before and after 2013, indicating that GIOMAS is a good option to study the long-term variation in Antarctic sea ice. However, due to deficiencies in the model and asymmetric changes in SIT caused by assimilation, GIOMAS underestimates Antarctic SIT especially in deformed ice regions, which has an impact on not only the mean state of SIT but also the variability. Thus, besides the further development of the model, assimilating additional sea-ice observations (e.g., SIT and sea-ice drift) with advanced assimilation methods may be conducive to a more accurate estimation of Antarctic SIT.

Spatiotemporal evolution of melt ponds on Arctic sea ice: MOSAiC observations and model results

Webster, M.A., M. Holland, N.C. Wright, S. Hendricks, N. Hutter, P. Itkin, B. Light, F. Lindhardt, D.K. Perovich, I.A. Raphael, M.M. Smith, L. von Albedyll, and J. Zhang, "Spatiotemporal evolution of melt ponds on Arctic sea ice: MOSAiC observations and model results," Elem. Sci. Anth., 10, doi:10.1525/elementa.2021.000072, 2022.

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11 May 2022

Melt ponds on sea ice play an important role in the Arctic climate system. Their presence alters the partitioning of solar radiation: decreasing reflection, increasing absorption and transmission to the ice and ocean, and enhancing melt. The spatiotemporal properties of melt ponds thus modify ice albedo feedbacks and the mass balance of Arctic sea ice. The Multidisciplinary drifting Observatory for the Study of Arctic Climate (MOSAiC) expedition presented a valuable opportunity to investigate the seasonal evolution of melt ponds through a rich array of atmosphere-ice-ocean measurements across spatial and temporal scales. In this study, we characterize the seasonal behavior and variability in the snow, surface scattering layer, and melt ponds from spring melt to autumn freeze-up using in situ surveys and auxiliary observations. We compare the results to satellite retrievals and output from two models: the Community Earth System Model (CESM2) and the Marginal Ice Zone Modeling and Assimilation System (MIZMAS). During the melt season, the maximum pond coverage and depth were 21% and 22 ± 13 cm, respectively, with distribution and depth corresponding to surface roughness and ice thickness. Compared to observations, both models overestimate melt pond coverage in summer, with maximum values of approximately 41% (MIZMAS) and 51% (CESM2). This overestimation has important implications for accurately simulating albedo feedbacks. During the observed freeze-up, weather events, including rain on snow, caused high-frequency variability in snow depth, while pond coverage and depth remained relatively constant until continuous freezing ensued. Both models accurately simulate the abrupt cessation of melt ponds during freeze-up, but the dates of freeze-up differ. MIZMAS accurately simulates the observed date of freeze-up, while CESM2 simulates freeze-up one-to-two weeks earlier. This work demonstrates areas that warrant future observation-model synthesis for improving the representation of sea-ice processes and properties, which can aid accurate simulations of albedo feedbacks in a warming climate.

A new norm for seasonal sea ice advance predictability in the Chukchi Sea: Rising influence of ocean heat advection

Nakanowatari, T., J. Inoue, J. Zhang, E. Watanabe, and H. Kuroda, "A new norm for seasonal sea ice advance predictability in the Chukchi Sea: Rising influence of ocean heat advection," J. Clim., 35, 2723-2740, doi:10.1175/JCLI-D-21-0425.1, 2022.

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1 May 2022

Predictability of seasonal sea ice advance in the Chukchi Sea has been investigated in the context of ocean heat transport from the Bering Strait; however, the underlying physical processes have yet to be fully clarified. Using the Pan-Arctic Ice–Ocean Modeling and Assimilation System (PIOMAS) reanalysis product (1979–2016), we examined seasonal predictability of sea ice advance in early winter (November–December) and its source using canonical correlation analysis. It was found that 2-month leading (September–October) surface heat flux and ocean heat advection is the major predictor for interannual variability of sea ice advance. Surface heat flux is related to the atmospheric cooling process, which has influenced sea ice area in the southeastern Chukchi Sea particularly in the 1980s and 1990s. Anomalous surface heat flux is induced by strong northeasterly winds related to the east Pacific/North Pacific teleconnection pattern. Ocean heat advection, which is related to fluctuation of volume transport in the Bering Strait, leads to decrease in the sea ice area in the northwestern Chukchi Sea. Diagnostic analysis revealed that interannual variability of the Bering Strait volume transport is governed by arrested topographic waves (ATWs) forced by southeasterly wind stress along the shelf of the East Siberian Sea. The contribution of ocean heat flux to sea ice advance has increased since the 2000s; therefore, it is suggested that the major factor influencing interannual variability of sea ice advance in early winter has shifted from atmospheric cooling to ocean heat advection processes.

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In The News

Fact check: NASA did not deny warming or say polar ice has increased since 1979

USA Today, Kate Petersen

NASA researchers have documented the loss of trillions of tons of ice from Earth's poles due to human-driven climate change. Citing published reports from the Polar Science Center and other sources, popular social media memes claiming an increase in polar ice since 1979 are swatted down.

21 Jan 2022

Arctic's 'last ice area' may be less resistant to global warming

The New York Times, Henry Fountain

The region, which could provide a last refuge for polar bears and other Arctic wildlife that depends on ice, is not as stable as previously thought, according to a new study.

1 Jul 2021

Arctic's 'last ice area' shows earlier-than-expected melt

Associated Press, Seth Borenstein

Part of the Arctic is nicknamed the 'Last Ice Area,' because floating sea ice there is usually so thick that it’s likely to withstand global warming for decades. So, scientists were shocked last summer when there was suddenly enough open water for a ship to pass through.

1 Jul 2021

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