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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.


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2000-present and while at APL-UW

Biogeographic responses of the copepod Calanus glacialis to a changing Arctic marine environment

Feng, Z., R. Ji, C. Ashjian, R. Campbell, and J. Zhang, "Biogeographic responses of the copepod Calanus glacialis to a changing Arctic marine environment," Global Change Biol., 24, 159-170, doi:10.1111/gcb.13890, 2018.

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1 Jan 2018

Dramatic changes have occurred in the Arctic Ocean over the past few decades, especially in terms of sea ice loss and ocean warming. Those environmental changes may modify the planktonic ecosystem with changes from lower to upper trophic levels. This study aimed to understand how the biogeographic distribution of a crucial endemic copepod species, Calanus glacialis, may respond to both abiotic (ocean temperature) and biotic (phytoplankton prey) drivers. A copepod individual-based model coupled to an ice-ocean-biogeochemical model was utilized to simulate temperature- and food-dependent life cycle development of C. glacialis annually from 1980 to 2014. Over the 35-year study period, the northern boundaries of modeled diapausing C. glacialis expanded poleward and the annual success rates of C. glacialis individuals attaining diapause in a circumpolar transition zone increased substantially. Those patterns could be explained by a lengthening growth season (during which time food is ample) and shortening critical development time (the period from the first feeding stage N3 to the diapausing stage C4). The biogeographic changes were further linked to large-scale oceanic processes, particularly diminishing sea ice cover, upper ocean warming, and increasing and prolonging food availability, which could have potential consequences to the entire Arctic shelf/slope marine ecosystems.

Greater role of geostrophic currents in Ekman dynamics in the western Arctic Ocean as a mechanism for Beaufort Gyre stabilization

Zhong, W., M. Steele, J. Zhang, and J. Zhao, "Greater role of geostrophic currents in Ekman dynamics in the western Arctic Ocean as a mechanism for Beaufort Gyre stabilization," J. Geophys. Res., 123, 149-165, doi:10.1002/2017JC013282, 2018.

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1 Jan 2018

Seven different methods, with and without including geostrophic currents, were used to explore Ekman dynamics in the western Arctic Ocean for the period 1992–2014. Results show that surface geostrophic currents have been increasing and are much stronger than Ekman layer velocities in recent years (2003–2014) when the oceanic Beaufort Gyre (BG) is spinning up in the region. The new methods that include geostrophic currents result in more realistic Ekman pumping velocities than a previous iterative method that does not consider geostrophic currents and therefore overestimates Ekman pumping velocities by up to 52% in the central area of the BG over the period 2003–2014. When the BG is spinning up as seen in recent years, geostrophic currents become stronger, which tend to modify the ice‐ocean stress and moderate the wind‐driven Ekman convergence in the Canada Basin. This is a mechanism we have identified to play an important and growing role in stabilizing the Ekman convergence and therefore the BG in recent years. This mechanism may be used to explain three scenarios that describe the interplay of changes in wind forcing, sea ice motion, and geostrophic currents that control the variability of the Ekman dynamics in the central BG during 1992–2014. Results also reveal several upwelling regions in the southern and northern Canada Basin and the Chukchi Abyssal Plain which may play a significant role in physical and biological processes in these regions.

Future sea ice conditions and weather forecasts in the Arctic: Implications for Arctic shipping

Gascard, J.-C., and 7 others including J. Zhang, "Future sea ice conditions and weather forecasts in the Arctic: Implications for Arctic shipping," Ambio, 46, 35-367, doi:10.1007/s13280-017-0951-5, 2017

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1 Dec 2017

The ability to forecast sea ice (both extent and thickness) and weather conditions are the major factors when it comes to safe marine transportation in the Arctic Ocean. This paper presents findings focusing on sea ice and weather prediction in the Arctic Ocean for navigation purposes, in particular along the Northeast Passage. Based on comparison with the observed sea ice concentrations for validation, the best performing Earth system models from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) program (CMIP5 — Coupled Model Intercomparison Project phase 5) were selected to provide ranges of potential future sea ice conditions. Our results showed that, despite a general tendency toward less sea ice cover in summer, internal variability will still be large and shipping along the Northeast Passage might still be hampered by sea ice blocking narrow passages. This will make sea ice forecasts on shorter time and space scales and Arctic weather prediction even more important.

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In The News

Arctic sea ice volume, now tracking record low, stars in data visualization

UW News and Information, Hannah Hickey

The Pan-Arctic Ice Ocean Modeling and Assimilation System (PIOMAS) combines weather observations, sea-surface temperature and satellite pictures of ice coverage to compute ice volume and then compares that with on-the-ground measurements. PIOMAS ice numbers starred in an animated graphic posted this week by a climate scientist at the University of Reading.

7 Jul 2016

UW researchers attend sea ice conference — above the Arctic Circle

UW News and Information, Hannah Hickey

University of Washington polar scientists are on Alaska’s North Slope this week for the 2016 Barrow Sea Ice Camp. Supported by the National Science Foundation, the event brings together U.S.-based sea ice observers, satellite experts and modelers at various career stages to collect data and discuss issues related to measuring and modeling sea ice. The goal is to integrate the research community in order to better observe and understand the changes in Arctic sea ice.

1 Jun 2016

Antarctic sea ice his 35-year record high Saturday

The Washington Post Blogs, Jason Samenow

Antarctic sea ice has grown to a record large extent for a second straight year, baffling scientists seeking to understand why this ice is expanding rather than shrinking in a warming world.

23 Sep 2013

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