Arctic Ocean Drift Tracks from Ships, Buoys and Manned Research Stations,1872-1973


Thirty-four drift tracks in the Arctic Ocean pack ice are collected in a unified tabular data format, one file per track. Data are from drifting ships, manned research stations on ice floes (ice islands) and data buoys. Track names are FRAM (ship, 1893 to 1896), NP-01 through NP-20 (Soviet North Pole stations on ice floes, 1937, 1950, 1954 to 1970), IGY-A and IGY-B (International Geophysical Year ice camps, 1957 to 59), T-3 (Fletcher's Ice Island, 1959 to 1970), ARLIS-II (Arctic Research Laboratory Ice Station II ice camp, 1961 to 1965), BTAE (British Transarctic Expedition, 1968 to 1969), seven buoys deployed during the AIDJEX (Arctic Ice Dynamics Joint Experiment) pilot study (1972), TEGG (Austrian ship Tegetthoff, 1872 to 1873) and St. Anna (Russian ship, 1912 to 1914).

Access to the Arctic Ocean Drift Tracks from Ships, Buoys and Manned Research Stations, 1872-1973, data set is unrestricted, but users are encouraged to register for the data. Registered users will receive e-mail notification about any product changes.

Citing These Data

Colony, R., and A.S. Thorndike. 1984. Arctic Ocean drift tracks from ships, buoys and manned research stations, 1872-1973. Boulder, CO: National Snow and Ice Data Center.

As a condition of using these data, you must cite the use of this data set using the following citation. For more information, see our Use and Copyright Web page.

Overview Table

Category Description
Data format ASCII
Spatial coverage Arctic Ocean
Temporal coverage 1872-1973
File size The entire data set is 549 KB (compressed).
Parameter(s) Sea ice motion
Metadata access View metadata
Data access Data are available via FTP.

Table of Contents

1. Contacts
2. Detailed Data Description
3. Data Access and Related Collections
4. References and Related Publications
5. Acknowledgements
6. Document Information

1. Contacts

NSIDC User Services
National Snow and Ice Data Center
University of Colorado
Boulder, CO 80309-0449  USA
phone: +1 303.492.6199
fax: +1 303.492.2468
form: Contact NSIDC User Services

2. Detailed Data Description


The collection of drift track positions from 34 platforms or buoys was smoothed, interpolated and projected to a two-dimensional coordinate system by Alan Thorndike and Roger Colony, of the AIDJEX project office, University of Washington. The original raw data consisted of geographic positions at sporadic times for the various platforms. The processes applied to the original data yielded points every two days in x,y coordinates, together with associated velocities (first derivatives).

The origin of the x, y coordinates is the North Pole; positive x-axis is the projection of the Greenwich meridian; positive y-axis is the projection of the 90 degree East meridian. The units of x and y are in kilometers. Velocities are in centimeters per second. The projection is such that the linear accuracy is better than 99 percent over the Arctic Basin. The transformation used in the conversion from lat/lon to x/y is as follows:


The dates for the tracks are given in century days, counting from 1 January 1900 (1900 was not a leap year, for ease in subtracting.) Tracks for the Fram and the Tegetthoff ships were recorded during 19th century, so these century days are from 1 January 1800.

Note that oceanographic data from certain Western drifting stations may be found in the National Oceanic Data Center's World Ocean Database.

Spatial and Temporal Coverage and Resolution

Data cover varying times and positions in the Arctic Ocean during the period 1872-1973. Raw data from drift tracks are processed to a position and velocity vector every two days.


Each data file begins with a title record having the following format:

1 01-10 Alphanumeric name of the track
2 11-18 Numerical track id
3 19-26 Number of data points (half the number of days)
4 27-35 Start day of track (century day)
5 36-44 End day of track (century day)
6 45-80 Filler (blanks)

Data records have the following format:

1 01-07 Century day
2 08-17 X kilometers
3 18-27 Y kilometers
4 28-36 U (cm/sec)
5 37-45 V (cm/sec)
6 46-80 Filler (blanks)

Drifting station track names as recorded in this dataset are:

Station Date(s) Station Date(s)
FRAM 1893-96 NP-19 1970
NP-01 1937 NP-20 1970
NP-02 1950-51 IGY-A 1957-59
NP-04 1954-57 IGY-B 1957-58
NP-06 1956-59 T-3 1962-70
NP-07 1957-59 ARLIS-II 1961-65
NP-08 1959-62 BTAE 1968-69
NP-09 1960-61 T-3 ADD 1959-60
NP-10 1961-64 BUOY 1 1972
NP-11 1962-63 BUOY 2 1972
NP-12 1963-65 BUOY 3 1972
NP-13 1964-67 BUOY 4 1972
NP-14 1965-66 BUOY 5 1972
NP-15 1966-68 BUOY 6 1972
NP-16 1968-70 BUOY 8 1972
NP-17 1968-69 TEGG 1872-73
NP-18 1968-70 ST. ANNA 1912-14

Sample Data Record

   ARLIS-II     44     715  22433.5  23861.5
   22433.5 -1717.294  -713.603     .2240    6.6780
   22435.5 -1716.681  -701.376     .4860    7.4740
   22437.5 -1715.614  -687.773     .5140   11.0700
   22439.5 -1714.905  -663.118     .8710   11.1790
   22441.5 -1712.604  -649.138    1.5280    7.6900

File Size

The entire data set is 549 KB (compressed).

3. Data Access and Related Collections

Data Access

Data are available via FTP.

Related NSIDC Data Collections

4. References and Related Publications

AIDJEX Data Bank Digital Data Indices and Preliminary User's Guide. 1973. AIDJEX Bulletin. 19:125-148

Arctic Climatology Project. 2000. Environmental Working Group Arctic Meteorology and Climate Atlas. Edited by F. Fetterer and V. Radionov, Boulder, CO: National Snow and Ice Data Center. CD-ROM.

Colony, R., and A. S. Thorndike. 1984. Estimate of the mean field of Arctic sea ice motion. J. Geophys. Res. 89(C6):10623-10629.

Hastings, A. D. 1971. Surface Climate of the Arctic Basin. U. S. Army Engineer Topographic Laboratories, Ft. Belvoir, VA. NTIS Order No. AD738-796.

National Snow and Ice Data Center. 2002. Norwegian North Polar Expedition 1893-1896: Oceanographic Data. Fridtjof Nansen, compiler. Boulder, CO: National Snow and Ice Data Center. Digital media.

5. Acknowledgements

The data were contributed to NSIDC/WDC for Glaciology, Boulder by the AIDJEX project office. This data set is maintained at NSIDC with support from the NOAA National Geophysical Data Center. M. Stateman, AIDJEX data manager, was associated with the data.

6. Document Information

Document Authors


Document Creation Date


Document Revision Date

In September, 1998, NSIDC updated the documentation. In July, 2006, this document was reformatted.

Document URL