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The Southampton Oceanography Centre and the earlier UK laboratories involved with deep sea oceanography (The National Institute of Oceanography - 1953-72 and the Institute of Oceanographic Sciences 1972 to 1996) have been involved in the development and use of neutrally buoyant floats for scientific research (more info). The newer derivatives of these floats now have a wider use in routinely documenting the circulation and stratification of the global ocean in a project called Argo.

In 1996 IOS/SOC started a project project in the Irminger Sea (SE of Greenland) that used the profiling versions of the floats (Profiling Autonomous LAgrangian Circulation Explorers). This project was an early forerunner of the UK's involvement in the Argo project. The Irminger study provided important information on float operation and performance as well as new information on the winter cycle of cooling in this inhospitable area. One of the floats deployed in 1996 continues to operate in 2002, five and a half years later.

Argo will maintain a global network of 3000 profiling floats. This will give a resolution of approximately 3 degrees, (300km). Each year the project will deliver approximately 100,000 temperature and salinity profiles to a depth of 2000m and velocity measurements at 2000m., All Argo data are publicly available over the Global Telecommunication System (GTS) within hours of the measurements being made. Within a few months, data with improved calibrations and quality checks are available from regional data centres.

Argo originated from the need to make climate predictions on both short and long time scales and has led to a global collaboration. The spatial and temporal variability of the ocean on a variety of scales requires that large numbers of measurements are required throughout the world's oceans and over a long time period. These will come in part from satellite observations and in part from in situ measurements from Argo.

Argo is a key element of the Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS) and the wider Global Climate Observing System (GCOS) that provide operational support through a global system for observations, modelling and analysis of climate variables.

Argo is co-sponsored by the Global Data Assimilation Experiment (GODAE) which aims to demonstrate the feasibility of routine, real-time, global ocean data assimilation and prediction and by CLIVAR - the World Climate Research Programme's project on Climate Variability and Predictability looking at natural variability and anthropogenic climate change.

The UK Argo project is currently (early 2002) building up rapidly with a commitment of at least 50 floats per year. The geographical areas of UK interest are the North Atlantic, Norwegian Sea, South Atlantic, South Indian Ocean, Arabian Sea and Southern Ocean. The UK British Oceanographic Data Centre (BODC) will establish a delayed mode Argo regional data centre for the Southern Ocean.

The UK Argo. project is a collaboration between: the Met Office, the Natural Environment Research Council (SOC and BODC) and the UK Hydrographic Office.

Profiling floats at SOC

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Alex Sen-Gupta alexg@maths.unsw.edu.au
Last Modified: 29/11/07
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