The Ptarmigan Dropsonde Archive

The Ptarmigan Dropsonde Archive consists of more than 10,000 vertical profiles of temperature, pressure and occasionally moisture over the uninhabited Beaufort Sea and western Arctic Ocean. These dropsonde measurements were made as part of the "Ptarmigan" weather reconnaissance program conducted by the U.S. Air Force during the period 1950-1961. Most of the drops were made from the 500 hPa pressure altitude; therefore the sounding data reflect atmospheric conditions in the lower troposphere.

The dropsonde positions are shown in the figure below. The measurement locations are not uniformly distributed throughout the western Arctic Ocean and Beaufort Sea region. Rather, the soundings were made along flight paths, typically diamond-shaped patterns extending from central Alaska to the North Pole.

Access Information

The Ptarmigan Dropsonde Archive may be obtained at

Please note: I'd appreciate a brief note by email to to give me some idea as to how many people are using these data. Thanks.


Kahl, J.D., M.C. Serreze, S. Shiotani, S.M. Skony and R.C. Schnell, 1992: In situ meteorological sounding archives for Arctic studies. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Soceity, 73, 1824-1830. View article (pdf)

Skony, S.M., J.D. Kahl and N.A. Zaitseva, 1994: Differences between radiosonde and dropsonde temperature profiles over the Arctic Ocean. J. Atmos. Ocean. Tech., 11, 1400-1408. View article (pdf)

Locations of 10,326 temperature profiles measured by dropsonde from U.S. Ptarmigan weather reconnaissance aircraft during 1950-1961. The aircraft typically flew diamond-shaped patterns extending from central Alaska to the North Pole. Portions of the flight paths are visible as "streaks" of dropsonde positions. Drops were often made at pre-determined locations, with as many as 500 soundings made at specific points. More than 100 soundings were made at the North Pole.

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