Surface, CO2, and ADCP Measurements at the Arctic Ice Edge

Saildrone’s 5th annual Arctic mission was a joint effort between NOAA and NASA, part of the NOPP Arctic MISST project.


Saildrone Explorers

36,000 nm

Cumulative distance traveled


Northern latitude record

Access Data Set


The 2019 Arctic Saildrone Mission was a joint effort between NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory (PMEL) and Alaska Fisheries Science Center (AFSC), the NOAA/University of Washington Joint Institute for the Study of the Ocean and Atmosphere (Joint Institute for the Study of Atmosphere and Ocean [JISAO]), and the National Ocean Partnership Program (NOPP) Arctic MISST (Multi-sensor Improved Sea Surface Temperature) study.

Six Saildrone Explorers were deployed in May 2019. Five vehicles sailed into the Chukchi Sea: SD-1033 surveyed lines in Distributed Biological Observatories (DBO) 1-5; the remaining four ran transects in the Chukchi Sea approaching the southern sea ice edge. The sixth vehicle (SD 1041) remained in the Bering Sea to measure fish acoustic backscatter and conduct focal follows of threatened fur seals for AFSC.


Real-time comparisons of Saildrone data with numerical models revealed that surface net heat fluxes in the Arctic vary substantially, short-range numerical predictions can be very good for certain variables but not for others, and they deviate quickly from Saildrone in situ observations as the prediction range increases.

Other supporting measurements were made during this mission: The PMEL/WHOI/JISAO Arctic Heat Open Science Experiment dropped AXBTs July 16–22.USCGC Healy met SD 1033 on August 11 for a pCO2 cross-calibration. SD-1034 and SD-1035 sailed near the sites of periodic surfacings of Marine Robotic Vehicles (MRV) Air-Launched Autonomous Micro-Observer (ALAMO) float 9234. In August, SD-1036 followed a University of Washington Applied Physics Lab Seaglider in a bow-tie pattern near 73°N, 148°W.

The fleet traveled more than 36,000 nautical miles (66,672 kilometers) and set a new Saildrone northern latitude record of 75.49°N.

“This mission was very interesting, challenging, time consuming, and rewarding. It felt like true exploration. Nobody had done this before. Each day brought its own intensive process of evaluating risk and reward. When we finally got close to the ice, we made observations that we’re hard-pressed to find elsewhere.”

Andy Chiodi

Researcher at the University of Washington’s Joint Institute for the Study of Atmosphere and Ocean, a NOAA Cooperative Institute

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