The purpose of the North Pole Environmental Observatory (NPEO) is to help track and understand ongoing changes in the arctic environment, and to increase the availability of long-term environmental data in the Arctic by providing a data and infrastructure resource for other polar science and climate investigations. NPEO was first established in 2000 and includes an automated drifting station of buoys fixed to the sea ice, an ocean mooring, and airborne hydrographic surveys. The North Pole is an excellent location for long-term measurements. Near the flank of the Lomonosov Ridge, it has proven to be a sensitive site for changes in upper ocean frontal structure and changes in the Atlantic water flowing along the ridge. A history of expeditions to the North Pole provides a benchmark of ocean and sea ice observations. The drifting station deployment at the North Pole fills a geographic gap in drifting buoy coverage of the International Arctic Buoy Program's (IABP). Time series observations of ice thickness there provide a unique measure of sea ice in the Transpolar Drift. The airborne hydrographic surveys reach critical areas that are difficult to reach by other means.
NPEO observations are necessary to understand the impacts of a changing Arctic environment on ecosystems, indigenous communities and society at large. NPEO enhances the infrastructure for research by providing basic infrastructure and data for research activities in the central Arctic.