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Data Set ID:

Arctic Ocean Drift Tracks from Ships, Buoys, and Manned Research Stations, 1872-1973, Version 1

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).

Geographic Coverage

  • Sea Ice > Sea Ice Motion
Spatial Coverage:
  • N: 90, S: 80, E: 180, W: -180

Spatial Resolution: Not Specified
Temporal Coverage:
  • 1 January 1893 to 31 December 1973
Temporal Resolution: Not specified
Data Format(s):
  • ASCII Text
Sensor(s): Not specified
Version: V1
Data Contributor(s): Roger Colony, A Thorndike
Data Citation

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.

Colony, R. and A. S. Thorndike. 1984. Arctic Ocean Drift Tracks from Ships, Buoys, and Manned Research Stations, 1872-1973, Version 1. [Indicate subset used]. Boulder, Colorado USA. NSIDC: National Snow and Ice Data Center. doi: [Date Accessed].

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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.

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Each data file is in ASCII text format and 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 data set 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
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File Size

The entire data set is 549 KB (compressed).

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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.

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Software and Tools

These data can be opened with any text reader/editor.

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References and Related Publications

Contacts and Acknowledgments


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.

Document Information

Document Creation Date


Document Author


Document Revision Date

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

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