Researchers with the international Argo program announced they have reached the point where 1,500 ocean-traveling float instruments—half the target 3,000-float array— are now operating to monitor and investigate important changes in the world’s oceans.

The Argo floats, which are robotically programmed to record and transmit data, are uniquely positioned to provide important information about climate and weather phenomena. Other applications of Argo information include: ocean heat storage and climate change; ocean salinity changes due to rainfall; ocean-driven events such as El Niño; impacts of ocean temperature on fisheries and regional ecosystems; interactions between the ocean and monsoons; and how the oceans drive hurricanes and typhoons.

“With 1,500 floats in the water we are now looking at almost the whole planet,” said Scripps Institution of Oceanography’s John Gould, Argo international project director. “It’s exciting to see so many countries involved in Argo and having them cooperate in monitoring the planet—oceanographers and climate scientists around the world now regard Argo as the key ocean element of an underwater global-observing system.”

With the number of instruments crossing the midpoint, the information being beamed back from the floats is increasingly being used for science and weather research. Twelve ocean and climate/weather centers around the world use Argo data in regional analyses and forecasts.

Scientists such as Scripps’s Dean Roemmich, chairman of the steering team for Argo, are using the data for new insights into ocean processes, information not available only a few years ago.

For example, a recent joint effort between Scripps Institution and a group 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.

More here.