US Argo Data Assembly Center
Processing System

What is Argo

A broad-scale global array of temperature/salinity profiling floats, known as Argo, is planned as a major component of the ocean observing system. Deployment began in 2000. Conceptually, Argo builds on the existing upper-ocean thermal networks, extending their spatial and temporal coverage, depth range and accuracy, and enhancing them through addition of salinity and velocity measurements. The name Argo is chosen to emphasize the strong complementary relationship of the global float array with the Jason altimeter mission. For the first time, the physical state of the upper ocean will be systematically measured and assimilated in near real-time.

Objectives of Argo fall into several categories. Argo will provide a quantitative description of the evolving state of the upper ocean and the patterns of ocean climate variability, including heat and freshwater storage and transport. The data will enhance the value of the Jason altimeter through measurement of subsurface vertical structure (T(z), S(z)) and reference velocity, with sufficient coverage and resolution for interpretation of altimetric sea surface height variability. Argo data will be used for initialization of ocean and coupled forecast models, data assimilation and dynamical model testing. A primary focus of Argo is seasonal to decadal climate variability and predictability, but a wide range of applications for high-quality global ocean analyses is anticipated.

The initial design of the Argo network is based on experience from the present observing system, on newly gained knowledge of variability from the TOPEX/Poseidon altimeter, and on estimated requirements for climate and high-resolution ocean models. Argo will provide 100,000 T/S profiles and reference velocity measurements per year from about 3000 floats distributed over the global oceans at 3-degree spacing. Floats will cycle to 2000 m depth every 10 days, with a 4-5 year lifetime for individual instruments. All Argo data will be publicly available in near real-time via the GTS, and in scientifically quality-controlled form with a few months delay. Global coverage should be achieved during the Global Ocean Data Assimilation Experiment, which together with CLIVAR and GCOS/GOOS, provide the major scientific and operational impetus for Argo. The design emphasizes the need to integrate Argo within the overall framework of the global ocean observing system.

International planning for Argo, including sampling and technical issues, is coordinated by the Argo Science Team. Nations presently having Argo plans that include float procurement or production include Australia, Canada, France, Japan, U.K., and U.S.A., plus a European Union proposal. Combined deployments from these nations are expected to exceed 700 floats per year by 2002. Broad participation in Argo by many nations is anticipated and encouraged either through float procurement, logistical support for float deployment, or through analysis and assimilation of Argo data.