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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

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.

Springtime renewal of zooplankton populations in the Chukchi Sea

Ashjian, C.J., R.S. Pickart, R.G. Campbell, Z.X. Feng, C. Gelfman, P. Alatalo, and J. Zhang, "Springtime renewal of zooplankton populations in the Chukchi Sea," Prog. Oceanogr., 197, doi:10.1016/j.pocean.2021.102635, 2021.

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1 Sep 2021

Although considerable work has been done in the Chukchi Sea during summer, much less has been done during other seasons. This has limited our ability to fully understand seasonal cycles and transformations of the Chukchi Sea zooplankton, particularly the key copepod species Calanus glacialis. Abundance and distributions of large zooplankton and of all life stages of C. glacialis in the northeastern Chukchi Sea during May–June 2014 are described. Three main zooplankton communities are identified; "arctic oceanic"” along the Chukchi slope associated with off-shelf water masses; Chukchi Sea "overwintering" associated with cold winter water in the northern part of the study area; and Chukchi Sea "spring" associated with early season summer water in the southern portion of the study area. The overwintering and spring communities were distinguished by the near total absence of younger copepodid (CI–CIII) C. glacialis stages and meroplankton in the overwintering community while older (CV–adult) C. glacialis, amphipods, and chaetognaths were present in both. The distributions of the communities followed the major circulation pathways in the northeastern Chukchi Sea. Water and plankton flooding in from the northern Bering Sea was filling the Chukchi Sea and replenishing the zooplankton communities as the remnants of the overwintering community was being advected northwards and into the Canadian Basin. A conceptual model of the seasonal evolution of C. glacialis populations in the Chukchi Sea, based on the interaction of C. glacialis phenology and advective drivers, enfolds both these spring observations and summer observations from numerous previous studies. Because the flushing time of the Chukchi Sea is shorter than the C. glacialis generation time, the copepod is unable to establish an endemic population in the Chukchi Sea, hence the population there must be renewed annually from the northern Bering Sea.

Accelerated sea ice loss in the Wandel Sea points to a change in the Arctic's Last Ice Area

Schweiger, A.J., M. Steele, J. Zhang, G.W.K. Moore, and K.L. Laidre, "Accelerated sea ice loss in the Wandel Sea points to a change in the Arctic's Last Ice Area," Comm. Earth Environ., 2, doi:, 2021.

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1 Jul 2021

The Arctic Ocean's Wandel Sea is the easternmost sector of the Last Ice Area, where thick, old sea ice is expected to endure longer than elsewhere. Nevertheless, in August 2020 the area experienced record-low sea ice concentration. Here we use satellite data and sea ice model experiments to determine what caused this record sea ice minimum. In our simulations there was a multi-year sea-ice thinning trend due to climate change. Natural climate variability expressed as wind-forced ice advection and subsequent melt added to this trend. In spring 2020, the Wandel Sea had a mixture of both thin and — unusual for recent years — thick ice, but this thick ice was not sufficiently widespread to prevent the summer sea ice concentration minimum. With continued thinning, more frequent low summer sea ice events are expected. We suggest that the Last Ice Area, an important refuge for ice-dependent species, is less resilient to warming than previously thought.

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In The News

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

Climate change: 'Last refuge' for polar bears is vulnerable to warming

BBC News, Matt McGrath

The region, dubbed the 'last ice area' had been expected to stay frozen far longer than other parts of the Arctic. But new analysis says that this area suffered record melting last summer. The researchers say that high winds allied to a changing climate were behind the unexpected decline.

1 Jul 2021

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