Argo: Observing the Oceans in Real Time

VideoArgo: Observing the Oceans in Real Time

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Argo is the largest ocean research project in the world and aims to report the climatic status of the world oceans in real-time every 10 days and report the data for use by anyone, anywhere on the planet. The global array is now in place and is reporting as planned. Accomplishing this required the cooperation of 24 nations deploying ocean-going robots in support of the global array. Today the Argo array is gathering more data each year from the Southern Ocean than has been acquired by the sum of all previous research in that ocean. In 2009 Argo will be assessed at a major meeting (OceanObs'09) in Venice which will also define the way ahead for Argo over the next 10 years. The data are being used for seasonal climate forecasting, ocean exploration, fisheries management and innumerable other purposes. It can be accessed in real time by anyone who has a connection to the internet.

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Scientists on research ships can sample the ocean only briefly, so they deploy automated devices for long term ocean monitoring.

This float is part of an international research program called Argo.

It measures ocean conditions, the drive events (such as El Niño), and climate change. Like a hot-air balloon, it drifts along on slow moving currents in the deep sea. The float dives by mechanically decreasing its volume in the water and it descends to as far as 2 km, more than a mile, to survey otherwise unmeasured underwater regions.

Submerged for up to 10 days, the float can be programmed to stay at one depth, or to move up and down to follow changing conditions. At pre-set intervals, it ascends by increasing its volume. Rising through many ocean layers, it records the ocean pressure, temperature and salinity — collecting an up-to-date profile of evolving ocean conditions.

At the surface, the float makes radio contact: its new location reveals the features of underwater currents. And, the data supplies real-time measurements of sub-surface ocean conditions – details unavailable without Argo.

After a short period, the float is ready for another cycle - a process that can repeat for more than five years.

With 3000 floats in a global network, the Argo program will supply real-time ocean data for immediate use and research and operational forecasting of marine and climate conditions world-wide.

Argo: Observing the oceans in real time.