The map shows drift tracks
of data buoy clusters from the NPEO main deployment camp near the North Pole each April 2000-2014 toward the North Atlantic for as long as they continued transmitting.

Data buoys drifting with the Arctic sea ice and reporting via satellites in earth orbit have been employed since the 1970s as an economic means of collecting data from the Arctic Ocean. Compared with manned ice stations or icebreaking ships, the economics are compelling. One early buoy manufacturer advertised: "Don't Send a Man to Do a Buoy's Job"! Such buoys have been a crucial component of NPEO from its earliest deployment in spring 2000.

The Arctic Ocean's Transpolar Drift exits the Arctic Basin by its only deep-water channel through Fram Strait just east of Greenland. A Buoy deployed in April near the Pole has a high probability of following that general route to reach the central Greenland Sea by the following mid-winter. If it avoids being crushed in a pressure ridge or damaged by a bear and is still transmitting when it gets to the ice edge, designed to survive in the ice it stands little chance of surviving long in the waves of the open sea.

So the Arctic drifting buoy business is a gamble, but recovering a six month record of the data measured by its sensors counts as a big success, and the odds of that are good. When possible we have deployed buoys "upstream" from the North Pole, down longitudes between 90 East and 180, which improves our chances of getting longer records near the Pole.

Many institutions place buoys in the Arctic, and NPEO collaborates with most of them, sometimes building and deploying our own buoys, sometimes deploying other people's buoys for them, sometimes providing the opportunity for them to deploy their own, typically sharing the data with each other.

Data from the NPEO's drifting buoys are permanently archived at the Cooperative Arctic Data and Information Service (CADIS) and Arctic System Science (ARCSS) Data Archive.  These data plus certain preliminary data sets may be obtained via FTP at this website. Images from NPEO Webcam Buoys are archived here.

Arctic investigators should be aware of these buoy operations and the data these collaborative efforts have produced: