The international Argo Program, which includes NOAA’s Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory, was recently awarded the Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Corporate Innovation Award “for innovation in large-scale autonomous observations in oceanography with global impacts in marine and climate science and technology.”
BGC Argo Floats Provide First Year-Round Net Primary Production Estimates for the Western North Atlantic
Phytoplankton drifting near the ocean surface play a critical role in marine biogeochemistry, carbon cycling, and ecosystem health. But measuring the activity of these microscopic organisms is challenging. Although scientists rely on ship-based sampling and satellites to quantify their abundance, both methods have limitations. In a study published recently in the Journal of Geophysical Research-Biogeosciences,* Argo profiling floats equipped with biogeochemical sensors, i.e., BGC Argo floats, were used to obtain the first year-long estimates of phytoplankton in the western North Atlantic Ocean.
In a recent article published in Frontiers in Marine Science, the history of the Argo program is examined and discussed. The Argo program began in 1998 when a team of international scientists, known as the “Argo Science Team,” proposed the idea for a global array of autonomous floats to obtain temperature and salinity measurements of the upper 2,000 meters of the global ocean. The new array of floats, called Argo, would go on to be endorsed as a pilot program of the Global Ocean Observing System and be used to fill in the large data gaps in ocean observations.
Scientists are now looking to expand their observing capabilities to include the biology and chemistry of the oceans, currently available globally from ocean color satellites that measure chlorophyll, indicating algal blooms at the ocean surface. A recent paper in the Journal of Atmospheric and Oceanic Technology by AOML postdoctoral scientist Cyril Germineaud of the University of Miami’s Cooperative Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Studies and colleagues shows that in close synergy with ocean color satellites, a global array of biogeochemical sensors complementing the existing core Argo network could revolutionize our knowledge of the changing state of primary productivity, ocean carbon cycling, ocean acidification, and the patterns of marine ecosystem variability from seasonal to interannual time scales.
Staff with the US Argo Data Acquisition Center (DAC) at AOML marked an important milestone this past February by processing the one millionth profile from Argo floats. The DAC team has been processing and quality controlling all of the raw data obtained from US-deployed Argo floats since 2001, with about 90,000 temperature-salinity profiles processed annually since 2007. These profiles have provided the global scientific community with an unprecedented record of the evolving state of the upper ocean, advancing understanding of the ocean’s role in world climate.
The US Argo Data Assembly Center at PhOD used the transition to the NETCDF profile format version 3.0 to consolidate three processes into one process. This major development had multiple benefits. The primary benefit is that during the development stage the rapid changes in the float technology, for example the addition of sensors, were taken into account to increase the adaptability of the software to future changes of floats as well as the NETCDF profile format. Prior to this development, three programs required adaptation when float types with a new combination of sensors was deployed.