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Jamie Morison

Senior Principal Oceanographer

Affiliate Professor, Oceanography






Dr. Morison's main focus centers on the study of Arctic Ocean change. He has been the principal investigator for the NSF-supported North Pole Environmental Observatory since 2000. He is involved with using remote sensing, principally NASA's Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE), to track changes in Arctic Ocean circulation and freshwater distribution. He is also continuing a long-term interest in small-scale processes by studying interplay among Arctic change, internal waves and mixing.

Department Affiliation

Polar Science Center


B.S. Mechanical Engineering, University of California at Davis, 1969

M.S. Mechanical Engineering, University of California at Davis, 1971

Ph.D. Geophysics, University of Washington, 1980


Stratified Ocean Dynamics of the Arctic — SODA

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31 Oct 2016

Vertical and lateral water properties and density structure with the Arctic Ocean are intimately related to the ocean circulation, and have profound consequences for sea ice growth and retreat as well as for prpagation of acoustic energy at all scales. Our current understanding of the dynamics governing arctic upper ocean stratification and circulation derives largely from a period when extensive ice cover modulated the oceanic response to atmospheric forcing. Recently, however, there has been significant arctic warming, accompanied by changes in the extent, thickness distribution, and properties of the arctic sea ice cover. The need to understand these changes and their impact on arctic stratification and circulation, sea ice evolution, and the acoustic environment motivate this initiative.

North Pole Environmental Observatory

The observatory is staffed by an international research team that establishes a camp at the North Pole each spring to take the pulse of the Arctic Ocean and learn how the world's northernmost sea helps regulate global climate.


Study of Environmental Arctic Change

SEARCH is an interagency effort to understand the nature, extent, and future development of the system-scale change presently seen in the Arctic. These changes are occuring across terrestrial, oceanic, atmospheric, and human systems.



Arctic Sea Ice Extent and Volume Dip to New Lows

By mid-September, the sea ice extent in the Arctic reached the lowest level recorded since 1979 when satellite mapping began.

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15 Oct 2012

APL-UW polar oceanographers and climatologists are probing the complex ice–ocean–atmosphere system through in situ and remote sensing observations and numerical model simulations to learn how and why.

Changing Freshwater Pathways in the Arctic Ocean

Freshening in the Canada Basin of the Arctic Ocean began in the 1990s. Polar scientist Jamie Morison and colleagues report new insights on the freshening based in part on Arctic-wide views from two satellite system.

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5 Jan 2012

The Arctic Ocean is a repository for a tremendous amount of river runoff, especially from several huge Russian rivers. During the spring of 2008, APL-UW oceanographers on a hydrographic survey in the Arctic detected major shifts in the amount and distribution of fresh water. The Canada basin had freshened, but had the entire Arctic Ocean?

Analysis of satellite records shows that salinity increased on the Russian side of the Arctic and decreased in the Beaufort Sea on the Canadian side. With an Arctic-wide view of circulation from satellite sensors, researchers were able to determine that atmospheric forcing had shifted the transpolar drift counterclockwise and driven Russian runoff east to the Canada Basin.

Oceanography from Space

In the North Atlantic and Arctic oceans observations by sensors on orbiting satellites are giving oceanographers insight to ocean processes on vast spatial and temporal scales.

1 Dec 2011


2000-present and while at APL-UW

Arctic ice–ocean coupling and gyre equilibration observed with remote sensing

Dewey, S., J. Morison, R. Kwok, S. Dickinson, D. Morison, and R. Andersen, "Arctic ice–ocean coupling and gyre equilibration observed with remote sensing," Geophys. Res. Lett., 45, 1499-1508, doi:10.1002/2017GL076229, 2018.

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16 Feb 2018

Model and observational evidence has shown that ocean current speeds in the Beaufort Gyre have increased and recently stabilized. Because these currents rival ice drift speeds, we examine the potential for the Beaufort Gyre's shift from a system in which the wind drives the ice and the ice drives a passive ocean to one in which the ocean often, in the absence of high winds, drives the ice. The resultant stress exerted on the ocean by the ice and the resultant Ekman pumping are reversed, without any change in average wind stress curl. Through these curl reversals, the ice‐ocean stress provides a key feedback in Beaufort Gyre stabilization. This manuscript constitutes one of the first observational studies of ice‐ocean stress inclusive of geostrophic ocean currents, by making use of recently available remote sensing data.

A meteoric water budget for the Arctic Ocean

Alkire, M.B., J. Morison, A. Schweiger, J. Zhang, M. Steele, C. Peralta-Ferriz, and S. Dickinson, "A meteoric water budget for the Arctic Ocean," J. Geophys. Res., EOR, doi:10.1002/2017JC012807, 2017.

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6 Oct 2017

A budget of meteoric water (MW = river runoff, net precipitation minus evaporation, and glacial meltwater) over four regions of the Arctic Ocean is constructed using a simple box model, regional precipitation-evaporation estimates from reanalysis data sets, and estimates of import and export fluxes derived from the literature with a focus on the 2003–2008 period. The budget indicates an approximate/slightly positive balance between MW imports and exports (i.e., no change in storage); thus, the observed total freshwater increase observed during this time period likely resulted primarily from changes in non-MW freshwater components (i.e., increases in sea ice melt or Pacific water and/or a decrease in ice export). Further, our analysis indicates that the MW increase observed in the Canada Basin resulted from a spatial redistribution of MW over the Arctic Ocean. Mean residence times for MW were estimated for the Western Arctic (5–7 years), Eastern Arctic (3–4 years), and Lincoln Sea (1–2 years). The MW content over the Siberian shelves was estimated (~14,000 km3) based on a residence time of 3.5 years. The MW content over the entire Arctic Ocean was estimated to be ≥ 44,000 km3. The MW export through Fram Strait consisted mostly of water from the Eastern Arctic (3237 ± 1370 km3 yr-1) whereas the export through the Canadian Archipelago was nearly equally derived from both the Western Arctic (1182 ± 534 km3 yr-1) and Lincoln Sea (972 ± 391 km3 yr-1).

An edge-referenced surface fresh layer in the Beaufort Sea seasonal ice zone

Dewey, S.R., J.H. Morison, and J. Zhang, "An edge-referenced surface fresh layer in the Beaufort Sea seasonal ice zone," J. Phys. Oceanogr., 47, 1125-1144, doi:10.1175/JPO-D-16-0158.1, 2017.

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1 May 2017

To understand the factors causing the interannual variations in the summer retreat of the Beaufort Sea ice edge, Seasonal Ice Zone Reconnaissance Surveys (SIZRS) aboard U.S. Coast Guard Arctic Domain Awareness flights were made monthly from June to October in 2012, 2013, and 2014. The seasonal ice zone (SIZ) is where sea ice melts and reforms annually and encompasses the nominally narrower marginal ice zone (MIZ) where a mix of open-ocean and ice pack processes prevail. Thus, SIZRS provides a regional context for the smaller-scale MIZ processes. Observations with aircraft expendable conductivity–temperature–depth probes reveal a salinity pattern associated with large-scale gyre circulation and the seasonal formation of a shallow (~20 m) fresh layer moving with the ice edge position. Repeat occupations of the SIZRS lines from 72° to 76°N on 140° and 150°W allow a comparison of observed hydrography to atmospheric indices. Using this relationship, the basinwide salinity signals are separated from the fresh layer associated with the ice edge. While this layer extends northward under the ice edge as the melt season progresses, low salinities and warm temperatures appear south of the edge. Within this fresh layer, average salinity is correlated with distance from the ice edge. The salinity observations suggest that the upper-ocean freshening over the summer is dominated by local sea ice melt and vertical mixing. A Price–Weller–Pinkel model analysis reveals that observed changes in heat content and density structure are also consistent with a 1D mixing process.

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In The News

Post-shutdown, UW Arctic research flights resume

UW News and Information, Hannah Hickey

After a couple of stressful weeks during the federal government shutdown, University of Washington researchers are back at work monitoring conditions near the North Pole. November has been busy for UW scientists studying winter storms, glacier melt and floating sea ice.

18 Nov 2013

Santa's workshop not flooded – but lots of melting in the Arctic

UW News and Information, Hannah Hickey

A dramatic image captured by a University of Washington monitoring buoy reportedly shows a lake at the North Pole. Researchers estimate the melt pond in the picture was just over 2 feet deep and a few hundred feet wide, which is not unusual to find on an Arctic ice floe in late July.

30 Jul 2013

Scientist on visible thinning of Arctic ice

ITV News

Dr. Jamie Morison has been visiting the North Pole for decades. He tells ITV News that Arctic ice is becoming noticeably thinner. (video interview)

11 Apr 2013

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