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Rebecca Woodgate

Senior Principal Oceanographer

Associate Professor, Oceanography






Dr. Woodgate is a physical oceanographer, specialising in polar research, with special focus on the circulation of the Arctic Ocean, interactions between sea-ice and the ocean, and the role of the polar oceans in climate. Her research concentrates on the collection and analysis of in-situ oceanographic data. She has worked for many years in the deployment and recovery of moored oceanographic instrumentation in ice-covered waters, and the analysis of both mooring and hydrographic data. She is involved in undergraduate teaching and graduate education. She has worked on British, German, Norwegian, and American research vessels and led expeditions to Bering Strait and the Arctic Ocean.

Her first degree is in physics from the University of Cambridge and her PhD (University of Oxford) is in data assimilation in ocean models. Her postdoc work was done at the Alfred-Wegener Institute in Germany.

Dr. Woodgate's research goal is to understand the physical processes in both Arctic and Antarctic regions, and to use her background to bridge the gap between theory, modeling, and real observations of the oceans.

Department Affiliation

Polar Science Center


B.A. Physics & Theoretical Physics, University of Cambridge, Christ's College, 1990

Ph.D. Oceanography, University of Oxford, 1994


High Latitude Dynamics

Year-round subsurface moorings are used to study the Arctic throughout the year. PIs Aagaard and Woodgate focus on mooring and other in situ data to address a variety of Arctic questions - including flow of Atlantic and Pacific waters, interactions between the shelves and the deep basins, and the properties of the Arctic Ocean Boundary Current.


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.


Bering Strait: Pacific Gateway to the Arctic

The Bering Strait is the only Pacific gateway to the Arctic. Since 1990, under various funding, APL-UW has been measuring properties of the Pacific inflow using long-term in situ moorings, supported by annual cruises. Data, papers, cruise reports, plans, and results are available.


More Projects


2000-present and while at APL-UW

Flow patterns in the eastern Chukchi Sea: 2010–2015

Stamen, P., N. Kachel, C. Ladd, and R. Woodgate, "Flow patterns in the eastern Chukchi Sea: 2010–2015," J. Geophys. Res., 123, 1177-1195, doi:10.1002/2017JC013135, 2018.

More Info

1 Feb 2018

From 2010 to 2015, moorings were deployed on the northern Chukchi Sea at nine sites. Deployment duration varied from 5 years at a site off Icy Cape to 1 year at a site north of Hanna Shoal. In addition, 39 satellite‐tracked drifters (drogue depth 25–30 m) were deployed in the region during 2012–2015. The goals of this manuscript are to describe currents in the Chukchi Sea and their relationship to ice and winds. The north–south pressure gradient results in, on average, a northward flow over the Chukchi shelf, which is modified by local winds. The volume transport near Icy Cape (~0.4 Sv) was ~40% of flow through Bering Strait and varied seasonally, accounting for >50% of summer and ~20% of winter transport in Bering Strait. Current direction was strongly influenced by bathymetry, with northward flow through the Central Channel and eastward flow south of Hanna Shoal. The latter joined the coastal flow exiting the shelf via Barrow Canyon. Drifter trajectories indicated the transit from Bering Strait to the mouth of Barrow Canyon took ~90 days during the ice‐free season. Most (~70%) of the drifters turned westward at the mouth of Barrow Canyon and continued westward in the Chukchi Slope Current. This slope flow was largely confined to the upper 300 m, and although it existed year‐round, it was strongest in spring and summer. Drifter trajectories indicated that the Chukchi Slope Current extends as far west as the mouth of Herald Canyon. The remaining ~30% of the drifters turned eastward or were intercepted by sea ice.

Increases in the Pacific inflow to the Arctic from 1990 to 2015, and insights into seasonal trends and driving mechanisms from year-round Bering Strait mooring data

Woodgate, R.A., "Increases in the Pacific inflow to the Arctic from 1990 to 2015, and insights into seasonal trends and driving mechanisms from year-round Bering Strait mooring data," Prog. Oceanogr., 160, 124-154, doi:10.1016/j.pocean.2017.12.007, 2018.

More Info

1 Jan 2018


• The Bering Strait inflow to the Arctic increased from 2001 (~0.7 Sv) to 2014 (~1.2 Sv).

• This is due to increasing far-field, pressure-head forcing, not local wind changes.

• Concurrently heat and freshwater fluxes strongly increased (3–5 × 1020 J, 2300–3500 km3).

• Seasonal data show winter freshening, pre-summer warming, summer/fall flow increase.

• A new climatology (1 Sv) for the strait, including seasonality for heat and freshwater.

The dominant role of the East Siberian Sea in driving the oceanic flow through the Bering Strait — Conclusions from GRACE ocean mass satellite data and in situ mooring observations between 2002 and 2016

Peralta-Ferriz, C., and R.A. Woodgate, "The dominant role of the East Siberian Sea in driving the oceanic flow through the Bering Strait — Conclusions from GRACE ocean mass satellite data and in situ mooring observations between 2002 and 2016," Geophys. Res. Lett., 44, 11,472-11,481, doi:10.1002/2017GL075179, 2017.

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28 Nov 2017

It is typically stated that the Pacific-to-Arctic oceanic flow through the Bering Strait (important for Arctic heat, freshwater, and nutrient budgets) is driven by local wind and a (poorly defined) far-field "pressure head" forcing, related to sea surface height differences between the Pacific and the Arctic. Using monthly, Arctic-wide, ocean bottom pressure satellite data and in situ mooring data from the Bering Strait from 2002 to 2016, we discover the spatial structure of this pressure head forcing, finding that the Bering Strait throughflow variability is dominantly driven from the Arctic, specifically by sea level change in the East Siberian Sea (ESS), in turn related to westward winds along the Arctic coasts. In the (comparatively calm) summer, this explains approximately two thirds of the Bering Strait variability. In winter, local wind variability dominates the total flow, but the pressure head term, while still correlated with the ESS-dominated sea level pattern, is now more strongly related to Bering Sea Shelf sea level variability.

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