About Mike Steele


Mike Steele is interested in the large-scale circulation of sea ice and water in the Arctic Ocean. He uses observations collected by in situ sensors and by satellites, as well as numerical model simulations to investigate time and space variations in sea ice and ocean properties. His analysis of ocean observations has focused on the upper layers, which are generally quite cold and fresh.

A recent focus of Dr. Steele’s research is the effects of sea ice retreat on the properties of the upper Arctic Ocean. Specifically, he is looking at the warming of the upper ocean during summer. How much of this warming is due to local atmospheric heating, and how much from heating by northward-flowing ocean currents? How much of this summer heat can survive through the following fall and winter? What is the effect of this heat on the overlying sea ice cover? Dr. Steele is also collaborating with biological oceanographers to better understand how changes in ocean salinity and temperature are affecting arctic plankton and thus the marine ecosystem.

Dr. Steele has active field programs in which data are collected in the field by his team and others, using aircraft, ships, and autonomous sensors like buoys and profiling floats. He is also involved with efforts to improve computer models of the arctic marine system, via the Forum for Arctic Modeling and Observational Synthesis, or FAMOS.

Funding for his research comes from the National Science Foundation, NASA, the Office of Naval Research, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency (NOAA). He is involved with many “outreach” programs such as lectures to K-12 and college students. Dr. Steele has been with the Polar Science Center since 1987.

Selected Publications

  • deSteur, L., M. Steele, J. Morison, I. G. Rigor, C. M. Lee, and E. Hansen, Recent changes in Arctic Ocean freshwater distribution, J. Climate, in review, 2010.

  • Hill, V. J., P. A. Matrai, E. Olson, S. Suttles, M. Steele, L. A. Codispoti, R. Zimmerman, Synthesis of primary production in the Arctic Ocean: II.  In situ and remotely sensed integrated estimates, 1999-2007, Prog. Oceanogr., submitted, 2010.

  • Codispoti, L. A., V. Kelly, A.Thessen, P. Matrai, S. Suttles, V. J. Hill, M. Steele, B. Light, Synthesis of primary production in the Arctic Ocean: III. Nitrate and phosphate based estimates of net community production, Prog. Oceanogr., 2010.

  • Rawlins, M. A., M. Steele, M. C. Serreze, C. J. Vorosmarty, W. Ermold, R. B. Lammers, K. C. McDonald, T. M. Pavelsky, A. Shilomanov, and J. Zhang, "Tracing freshwater anomalies through the air-land-ocean system: A case study from the Mackenzie River Basin and the Beaufort Gyre", Atmos. Ocean, 47(1), 79–97, doi:10.3137/OC301, 2009.
  • Francis, J.A., D.M. White, J.J. Cassano, W.J. Gutowski, L.D. Hinzman, M.M. Holland, M.A. Steele, and C.J. Vörösmarty,’ An arctic hydrologic system in transition: Feedbacks and impacts on terrestrial, marine, and human life’, J. Geophys. Res., 114, doi:10.1029/2008JG000902, 2009.

  • McPhee, M., J. Morison, A. Proshutinsky, M. Steele, M. Alkire (2009), Rapid Change in Freshwater Content of the Arctic Ocean, Geophysical Research Letters 36: doi:10.1029/2009GL037525.

  • Zhang, J., M. Steele, and R. Woodgate, The role of Pacific water in the dramatic retreat of arctic sea ice during summer 2007, J. Polar Science, 19(2), 93-107, 2008.

  • Zhang J., M. Steele, R. Lindsay, A. Schweiger, J. Morison, “Ensemble 1-Year predictions of Arctic sea ice for the spring and summer of 2008”, Journal of Polar Science,submitted 2008.

  • Zhang, J, R.W Lindsay, M. Steele and A. Schweiger, “What Drove the Dramatic Retreat of Arctic Sea Ice During Summer 2007?”, Geophys. Res. Lett., doi:10.1029/2008GL034005.

  • Steele, M., W. Ermold, and J. Zhang,’ Arctic Ocean surface warming trends over the past 100 years’, Geophys. Res. Lett., 35, L02614, doi:10.1029/2007GL031651, 2008.

  • Lindsay, R.W., J. Zhang, A. Schweiger and M.A. Steele, “Seasonal predictions of ice extent in the Arctic Ocean”, J. Geophys. Res., 113(C2), 2008.

  • Polyakov, I. V., V. Alexeev, G. I. Belchansky, I. A. Dmitrenko, V. Ivanov, S. Kirillov, A. Korablev, M. Steele, L. A. Timokhov, and I. Yashayaev, "Arctic Ocean freshwater changes over the past 100 years and their causes", J. Climate, 21, 364-384, 2008.
  • Schweiger, A.J., J. Zhang, R.W. Lindsay, and M. Steele, “Did unusually sunny skies help drive the record sea ice minimum of 2007?”, Geophys. Res. Lett, 35, 10, 6, doi: L10503,10.1029/2008gl033463, 2008b.


  • Steele, M. and W. Ermold,’ Steric sea level change in the Northern Seas‘, J. Climate, 20(3), 403–417, 2007.

  • Zhang, J., and M. Steele, “Effect of vertical mixing on the Atlantic Water layer circulation in the Arctic Ocean”, J. Geophys. Res., 112, C04S04, doi:10.1029/2006JC003732,2007.

  • White, D., L. Hinzman, L. Alessa, J. Cassano, M. Chambers, K. Falkner, J. Francis, B. Gutowski, M. Holland, M. Holmes, H. Huntington, D. Kane, A. Kliskey, C. Lee, J. McClelland, B. Peterson, F. Straneo, M. Steele, R. Woodgate, D. Yang, K. Yoshikawa, T. Zhang,’ The Arctic Freshwater System: Changes and impacts’, Journal of Geophysical Research, 112, G04S54, doi:10.1029/2006JG000353, 2007.

  • Serreze, M. C., A. P. Barrett, A. J. Slater, M. Steele, J. Zhang and K. Trenberth,’ The large-scale energy budget of the arctic’, ”J. Geophys. Res., 112, D11122, doi:10.1029/2006JD008230, 2007.

  • Polyakov, I. V., et al., M. Steele, et al.,’ Observational program tracks Arctic Ocean transition to a warmer state’, EOS, Trans. Amer. Geophys. Union, 88(40) 398-399, 2007.

  • Polyakov, I. V., V. Alexeev, G. I. Belchansky, I. A. Dmitrenko, V. Ivanov, S. Kirillov, A. Korablev, M. Steele, L. A. Timokhov, and I. Yashayaev,’ Arctic Ocean freshwater changes over the past 100 years and their causes’, J. Climate, doi: 10.1175/2007JCLI1748.1, 2007.

  • Holloway G., F. Dupont, E. Golubeva, S. Hakkinen, E. Hunke, M. Jin, M. Karcher, F. Kauker, M. Maltrud, M. A. Morales Maqueda, W. Maslowski, G. Platov, D. Stark, M. Steele, T. Suzuki, J. Wang, and J. Zhang,’ Water properties and circulation in Arctic Ocean models’, J. Geophys Res., 112, C04S03, doi:10.1029/2006JC003642, 2007.

  • Serreze, M. C., A. P. Barrett, A. J. Slater,  R. A. Woodgate,  K. Aagaard,  R. Lammers, M. Steele,  R. Moritz, M. Meredith,  C. Lee, The large-scale freshwater cycle of the arctic, J. Geophys. Res., 111, C11010, doi:10.1029/2005JC003424, 2006.

  • Morison, J., M. Steele, T. Kikuchi, K. Falkner, and W. Smethie,’ The relaxation of Central Arctic Ocean hydrography toward pre-1990s climatology‘, Geophys. Res. Lett.,33, L17604, doi: 10.1029/2006GL026826, 2006.

  • Uotila, P., D.M. Holland, M.A. Morales Maqueda, S. Hakkinen, G. Holloway, M. Karcher, M. Steele, N. Yakovlev, J. Zhang, A. Proshutinsky, “An energy-diagnostics intercomparison of coupled ice-ocean Arctic models“, Ocean Modeling, 11, 1–27, 2005.

  • Polyakov, I.V., Beszczynska, A., Carmack, E.C., Dmitrenko, I.A., Fahrbach, E., Frolov, I.E., Gerdes, R., Hansen, E., Holfort, J., Ivanov, V.V., Johnson, M.A., Karcher, M., Kauker, F., Morison, J., Orvik, K.A., Schauer, U., Simmons, H.L., Skagseth, Ø., Sokolov, V.T., Steele, M., Timokhov, L.A., Walsh, D., Walsh, J.E.,’ One more step toward a warmer Arctic’, Geophys. Res. Lett., 32, L17605, 10.1029/2005GL023740, 2005.

  • Falkner, K., M. Steele, R. Woodgate, J. Swift, K. Aagaard, and J. Morison, “Dissolved oxygen extrema in the Arctic Ocean halocline from the North Pole to the Lincoln Sea“, Deep-Sea Res., Volume 52, Issue 7, Pages 1138-1154, 2005.

  • Morison, J. H., K. Aagaard, K. K. Falkner, K, Hatakeyama, R. Moritz, J. E. Overland, D. Perovich, K. Shimada, M. Steele, T. Takizawa, R. Woodgate, Early results from the North Pole Environmental Observatory, EOS Trans., 83(33), pp. 357, 360-361, 2002.

  • Zhang, J., D.A. Rothrock, and M. Steele: Recent changes in Arctic Sea ice: The interplay between ice dynamics and thermodynamics, J. Climate, 13, 3099-3114, 2000.

  • Steele, M. and G. Flato, Sea ice growth, melt, and modeling:  A survey, in: The Freshwater Budget of the Arctic Ocean, pp 549-587, Kluwer, The Netherlands, 2000.

  • Morison, J. H., K. Aagaard, and M. Steele, Recent environmental changes in the Arctic: A review, Arctic, 53, 359-371, 2000.

  • Morison, J. H., M. Steele, and R. Andersen, Hydrography of the upper Arctic Ocean measured from the nuclear submarine USS Pargo, Deep Sea Res. I, 45, 15-38, 1998.

  • Steele, M. and T. Boyd, Retreat of the cold halocline layer in the Arctic Ocean, J. Geophys. Res., 103, 10,419-10,435, 1998.

  • Thomas, D., D. Rothrock, S. Martin, and M. Steele, Assimilating satellite concentration data into an Arctic sea ice mass balance model, 1979-1985, J. Geophys. Res., 101, 20,849-20,868, 1996.

  • Steele, M., D. Thomas, D. Rothrock, and S. Martin, A simple model study of the Arctic Ocean freshwater balance, 1979-1985, J. Geophys. Res., 101, 20,833-20,848, 1996.

  • Steele, M., D. Thomas, D. Rothrock, and S. Martin, A simple model study of the Arctic Ocean freshwater balance, 1979-1985, J. Geophys. Res., 101, 20,833-20,848, 1996.

  • Steele, M., J. H. Morison, and T. Curtin, Halocline water formation in the Barents Sea, J. Geophys. Res., 100, 881-894, 1995.

  • Steele, M. and J. Morison, Hydrography and vertical fluxes of heat and salt northeast of Svalbard in autumn, J. Geophys. Res., 98, 10,013-10,024, 1993.

  • Steele, M. and J. H. Morison, Obtaining smooth hydrographic profiles from a buoy deployed in sea ice, J. Atmos. and Ocean. Technol., 9, 812-826, 1992.

  • Steele, M., Sea ice melting and floe geometry in a simple ice-ocean model, J. Geophys. Res., 97, 17729-17738, 1992.

  • Steele, M., J. H. Morison, and N. Untersteiner, The partition of air-ice-ocean momentum exchange as a function of ice concentration, floe size, and draft, J. Geophys. Res., 94, 12,739-12,750, 1989.

  • Steele, M., G. L. Mellor, and M. G. McPhee, Role of the molecular sublayer in the melting or freezing of sea ice, J. Phys. Oceangr., 19, 139-147, 1989.

  • Steele, M., Numerical models of sea ice – ocean interaction in the Marginal Ice Zone, Ph.D. thesis, Princeton University, 203 pp., 1987.

  • Mellor, G. L., M. G. McPhee, and M. Steele, Ice-seawater turbulent boundary layer interaction with melting or freezing, J. Phys. Oceangr., 16, 1829-1846, 1986.