Recent reports have highlighted the need for improved observations of the atmosphere boundary layer. In this study, we explore the combination of ground-based active and passive remote sensors deployed for thermodynamic profiling to analyze various boundary-layer observation strategies. Optimal-estimation retrievals of thermodynamic profiles from Atmospheric Emitted Radiance Interferometer (AERI) observed spectral radiance are compared with and without the addition of active sensor observations from a May–June 2017 observation period at the Atmospheric Radiation Measurement Southern Great Plains site. In all, three separate thermodynamic retrievals are considered here: retrievals including AERI data only, retrievals including AERI data and Vaisala water vapour differential-absorption lidar data, and retrievals including AERI data and Raman lidar data. First, the three retrievals are compared to each other and to reference radiosonde data over the full observation period to obtain a bulk understanding of their differences and characterize the impact of clouds on these retrieved profiles. These analyses show that the most significant differences are in the water vapour field, where the active sensors are better able to represent the moisture gradient in the entrainment zone near the boundary-layer top. We also explore how differences in retrievals may affect results of applied analyses including land–atmosphere coupling, convection indices, and severe storm environmental characterization. Overall, adding active sensors to the optimal-estimation retrieval shows some added information, particularly in the moisture field. Given the costs of such platforms, the value of that added information must be weighed for the application at hand.