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Argo robotic instrument network now covers most of the globe

oup from New Zealand has vastly increased the number of floats deployed in the south Pacific Ocean. The new data has allowed Roemmich to make new observations about the area's ocean circulation and how currents have become stronger since last measured by ship-based techniques in the 1990s.

Other scientists are finding new ways to use the data.

"We will be able to get information about short-lived events, such as hurricanes," said Gould. "When a hurricane is building up and it goes across an area, if there is a float underneath it you can actually see how much energy the hurricane has sucked out of the upper ocean."

The full Argo array of 3,000 floats is expected to be deployed by 2007. Argo floats are autonomous ocean-traveling robots programmed to sink more than a mile below the ocean surface (see animation) and drift for as long as four years. Every 10 days the instruments surface to record temperature, salinity and currents and to relay the information to satellites. Within hours the information is transmitted to the Global Telecommunications System and is freely available on the Internet. The floats then sink again to begin a new cycle.

The developments leading to Argo's ability to operate globally were made in the early 1990s by Scripps scientist Russ Davis. Twenty-five percent of the floats in the Argo array are built at Scripps. Each float is designed for a four-year lifespan, or approximately 150 cycles. Some have lasted longer.

"If anyone is concerned about what the climate will be like over a five- or 10-year period, they will have to look to the oceans to find answers to their questions," said Gould. "Argo is becoming one of the key tools for monitoring what is going on in the oceans. So if there are any surprises, then we will get prior warning about them from Argo."

Eighteen countries contribute floats to the array and many others provide assistance with float d
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Contact: Mario Aguilera or Cindy Clark
scrippsnews@ucsd.edu
858-534-3624
University of California - San Diego
1-Dec-2004


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