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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.

Increasing winter ocean-to-ice heat flux in the Beaufort Gyre region, Arctic Ocean over 2006–2018

Zhong, W.L., S.T. Cole, J. Zhang, R. Lei, and M. Steele, "Increasing winter ocean-to-ice heat flux in the Beaufort Gyre region, Arctic Ocean over 2006–2018," Geophys. Res. Lett., 49, doi:10.1029/2021GL096216, 2022.

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29 Jan 2022

Ocean-to-ice heat flux (OHF) is important in regulating the variability of sea ice mass balance. Using surface drifting buoy observations, we show that during winter in the Arctic Ocean's Beaufort Gyre region, OHF increased from 0.76 ± 0.05 W/m2 over 2006–2012 to 1.63 ± 0.08 W/m2 over 2013–2018. We find that this is a result of thinner and less-compact sea ice that promotes enhanced winter ice growth, stronger ocean vertical convection, and subsurface heat entrainment. In contrast, Ekman upwelling declined over the study period, suggesting it had a secondary contribution to OHF changes. The enhanced ice growth creates a cooler, saltier, and deeper ocean surface mixed layer. In addition, the enhanced vertical temperature gradient near the mixed layer base in later years favors stronger entrainment of subsurface heat. OHF and its increase during 2006–2018 were not geographically uniform, with hot spots found in an upwelling region where ice was most seasonally variable.

Recent slowdown in the decline of Arctic sea ice volume under increasingly warm atmospheric and oceanic conditions

Zhang, J., "Recent slowdown in the decline of Arctic sea ice volume under increasingly warm atmospheric and oceanic conditions," Geophys. Res. Lett., 48, doi:10.1029/2021GL094780, 2021.

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20 Sep 2021

A model study shows that the decline of Arctic sea ice volume (SIV) slows down during 2007–2020 with increasingly warm atmospheric and oceanic conditions. The slowdown of the SIV decline is because the decrease in ice export from the Arctic exceeds the decrease in net ice production within the Arctic. The relatively strong decrease in ice export occurs when the increase in ice motion is lower than the decrease in SIV. The relatively weak decrease in net ice production is due to strong increases in ice growth as thinner ice grows faster than thicker ice under freezing conditions. The ice growth increases are closely correlated with and benefit from increases in open water creation caused by enhanced ice divergence and shear as thinner ice is easier to deform.

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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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