faculty listing

A Photo of  Thomas Weingartner

Contact Information

Institute of Marine Science
115 O'Neill
P.O. Box 757220
University of Alaska Fairbanks
Fairbanks, AK 99775-7220
Phone: (907) 474-7993

Thomas Weingartner Full Professor

Physical Oceanography


  • Physical oceanography of Alaskan continental shelves and slopes.
  • Interdisciplinary marine research
  • Wind- and buoyancy-forced shelf circulation systems


  • M.S. 1980 University of Alaska Fairbanks (Oceanography)
  • Ph.D. 1990 North Carolina State University (Oceanography)

Research Overview

Arctic Oceanography
Polar regions play an important role in the global climate system because they are the major global heat sinks. In the Arctic, this role is mediated by the Arctic Ocean and its sea ice cover through controls over mass and energy fluxes between the ocean, ice, and atmosphere. The Arctic Ocean also plays a pivotal role in the global fresh water balance and thereby affects the meridional (or overturning cell) of the global ocean circulation. My research focuses on circulation and water mass transformation processes (mixing, cooling, and the distillation effects on sea water associated with ice melt and formation) on Arctic continental shelves and slopes.Previous research involved extensive mooring and hydrographic studies in the Chukchi Sea. Present research activities include:

1. Obtaining an understanding of variations in transport, and heat and salt fluxes through Bering Strait. Long-term measurements of these are required because these fluxes affect the thermohaline structure and biological productivity of the Arctic Ocean. Moreover, Bering Strait plays an important role in maintaining the global hydrologic balance.

2. Understanding how dense water that is produced during the formation of sea ice is transported and mixed as it flows across arctic shelves and slope. This effort involves an extensive mooring program on the northern Bering Sea shelf designed to test theoretical predictions on how these processes occur.

3. Understanding the dynamics of circulation and mixing along the continental slope of the Alaskan Beaufort Sea. The flow along here is part of a broad circumpolar circulation that distributes water from the Atlantic and Pacific oceans throughout the Arctic Ocean. This effort involves a year-long mooring program in the Beaufort Sea. Each of these programs includes multi-institutional efforts involving investigators from other US universities as well as Canada, Japan, and Germany. Physical Oceanographic Effects on Marine Ecosystems. The Alaskan marine environment supports some of the largest commercial fisheries in the world but these resources are sensitive to changes in the physical environment. The United States has undertaken a concerted effort to develop a mechanistic understanding of the coupling between the physical environment and successive trophic levels. My research interests focus on understanding the circulation and water property structure on the continental shelf of the Gulf of Alaska.

Current Research Projects

  • Continuing a 28-year time series of temperature and salinity variability on the Gulf of Alaska. The goal is to quantify this variability and determine its causes.
  • Understanding the seasonal variations in the physical environment of the Gulf of Alaska shelf as part of the US GLOBEC (Global Ocean Ecosystem Dynamics) Program
    The basis of many of the more productive shelves in the global ocean is upwelling of nutrient rich sub-surface water into the surface layers of the ocean. In contrast, the Gulf of Alaska is biologically productive but is a downwelling shelf that receives an enormous, nutrient-poor coastal freshwater discharge. Hence, the basis for this productivity is not understood. This research is a multi-year and multi-investigator effort to examine the physical basis for this production in terms of nutrient availability, primary and secondary production and distribution, and the success of young-of-the year salmon. The study involves bi-monthly cruises across this shelf to sample temperature, salinity, nutrients, phyoplankton, zooplankton, and juvenile salmon.


Selected Publications

Markus A. Janout, M. A., T. J. Weingartner, D. L. Musgrave, S. R. Okkonen, and T. E. Whitledge, Some characteristics of Yakutat eddies propagating along the continental slope of the northern Gulf of Alaska (in review, Deep-Sea Research, II

Williams, W., T. Weingartner, and A. Hermann, Idealized Modeling of seasonal variation in the Alaska Coastal Current (in press, Journal of Geophysical Research., 2007)

Weingartner, T.  The Physical Environment of the Gulf of Alaska, pp. 12-44 in R. Spies (ed.),  Long-Term Ecological Change in the Northern Gulf of Alaska, Elsevier, Oxford, UK, 589 p., 2007.

Weingartner, T.  Agents of Ecosystem Change, Climate, pp. 171 – 178 in R. Spies (ed.),  Long-Term Ecological Change in the Northern Gulf of Alaska, Elsevier, Oxford, UK, 589 p., 2007.

Weingartner, T.  Long-Term Change, Atmosphere and Ocean, pp. 265 – 274 in R. Spies (ed.),  Long-Term Ecological Change in the Northern Gulf of Alaska, Elsevier, Oxford, UK, 589 p., 2007.

Dunton, K.H., T. Weingartner, and E.C. Carmack,  The nearshore western Beaufort Sea ecosystem: Circulation and importance of terrestrial carbon in arctic coastal food webs, Progr. Oceanogr., 71: 362 – 378, 2006.

Aagaard, K., T. J. Weingartner, S.L. Danielson, R.A. Woodgate, G.C. Johnson, and T.E. Whitledge, Some controls on flow and salinity in Bering Strait, Geophys. Res. Lett., 33, L19602, doi:10.1029/2006GL026612, 2006.

Danielson, S., K. Aagaard, T. Weingartner, S. Martin, P. Winsor, G. Gawarkiewicz, and D. Quadfasel, The St. Lawrence polynya and the Bering shelf circulation: New observations that test the models, J. Geophys. Res., J111, C09023, doi:10.1029/2005JC003268, 2006.

Weingartner, T., K. Aagaard, R. Woodgate, S. Danielson, Y. Sasaki, D. Cavalieri, Circulation on the North Central Chukchi Sea Shelf, Deep-Sea Res., Pt II, 52(24-26): 3150 – 3174, 2005.

Woodgate, R. A., K. Aagaard, and T. J. Weingartner.  2006.  Interannual changes in the Bering Strait fluxes of volume, heat and freshwater between 1991 and 2004, Geophysical Research Letters, 33, L15609, doi:10.1029/2006GL026931.

Weingartner, T.  2005.  Physical and Geological Oceanography: Coastal Boundaries and Coastal and Ocean Circulation (Chap. 4, p. 35 - 48), IN: The Gulf of Alaska: Biology and Oceanography, edited by P. Mundy, University of Alaska Sea Grant (Ak-SG-05-01), 214 p.

Woodgate, R. A., K. Aagaard, and T. Weingartner.  2005.  Monthly temperature, salinity, and transport variability of the Bering Strait throughflow, Geophysical Research Letters 32(4):DOI 10.1029/2004GL022112, 2005.

Pickart, R.S., T. Weingartner, L.J. Pratt, S. Zimmermann, and D. J. Torres.  2005.  Flow of winter-transformed Pacific water into the western Arctic, Deep-Sea Research, Pt. II, 52 (24-26): 3175 – 3199.

Woodgate, R. A., K. Aagaard, and T. Weingartner.  2005.  A year in the physical oceanography of the Chukchi Sea: Moored measurements from autumn 1990-91, Deep-Sea Research, Pt. II, 52 (24-26): 3116 – 3149.

Weingartner, T.J., S. Danielson, and T. C. Royer.  2005.  Freshwater Variability and Predictability in the Alaska Coastal Current Deep-Sea Research, 52: 169 – 192.

Okkonen, S., Weingartner, T.J., S. Danielson, D. L. Musgrave, and G. M. Schmidt.  2003.  Satellite and hydrographic observations of eddy-induced shelf-slope exchange in the northwestern Gulf of Alaska J. Geophysical Research 108: 15 –1, 15 –10.

Weingartner, T.J., K. Coyle, B. Finney, R. Hopcroft, T. Whitledge, R. Brodeur, M. Dagg, E. Farley, D. Haidvogel, L. Haldorson, A. Hermann, S. Hinckley, J. Napp, P. Stabeno, T. Kline C. Lee, E. Lessard, T. Royer, S. Strom.  2002.  The Northeast Pacific GLOBEC Program: Coastal Gulf of Alaska, Oceanography, 15: 48 – 63.

Weingartner, T. J., S. Danielson, Y. Sasaki, V. Pavlov, and M. Kulakov.  1999.  The Siberian Coastal Current: a wind and buoyancy-forced arctic coastal current. J. Geophysical Research, 104: 29697 – 29713.

Münchow, A., T. J. Weingartner, and L. Cooper.  1999.  On the subinertial summer surface circulation of the East Siberian Sea.  J. Physical Oceanography, 29: 2167 – 2182.

Gawarkiewicz, G., T. Weingartner, and D. Chapman.  1998. Sea Ice Processes and Water Mass Modification and Transport over Arctic Shelves. pp. 171-190 in K. H. Brink and A. R. Robinson, (eds.),  The Sea: Ideas and Observations on Progress in the Study of the Seas, Vol. 10.

Weingartner, T. J., D. J. Cavalieri, K. Aagaard, and Y. Sasaki.  1998.  Circulation, dense water formation and outflow on the northeast Chukchi Sea shelf.  J. Geophysical Research, 103: 7647-7662.

Weingartner, T. J.  1997. A review of the Physical Oceanography of the Northeastern Chukchi Sea.  Pp. 40-59, in J. Reynolds (ed.), Fish ecology in Arctic North America. American Fisheries Society Symposium 19, Bethesda, MD.

Moore, S.E., J. C. George, K. O. Coyle, and T. J. Weingartner, Bowhead whales along the Chukotka coast in autumn, Arctic, 48, 155-160, 1995.

Roach, A. T., K. Aagaard, C. H. Pease, S. A. Salo, T. Weingartner, V. Pavlov, and M. Kulakov.  1995.  Direct measurements of transport and water properties through Bering Strait.  J. Geophys. Res., 100:18443-18458.

Falkner, K. K., R. W. Macdonald, E. C. Carmack, and T. Weingartner.  1994.  The potential of Barium as a tracer of arctic water masses.  J. Geophys. Res., Nansen Centennial Volume.

Niebauer, H. J., Royer, T. C., and T. J. Weingartner.  1994.  Circulation of Prince William Sound, Alaska.  J. Geophys. Res.. 99:14113-14126

Musgrave, D. L., T. J. Weingartner, and T. C. Royer.  1992.  Circulation and hydrography in the northwest Gulf of Alaska.  Deep-Sea Res. 39:1499-1519.

Liu, A. K., C. Y. Peng, and T. J. Weingartner.  1994.  Ocean-ice interaction in the marginal ice zone using synthetic aperture radar imagery. J. Geophys. Res., 99:22391-22400