December 2021 Beacon

IEEE Corporate Innovations Award for 2022 goes to The ARGO Program

 Mal Heron and Marinna Martini

One of the highest awards in IEEE in 2022 goes to The Argo Program “For innovation in oceanography with global impacts in marine and climate science and technology”. This is a fitting and timely acknowledgement of the importance of the ocean to humanity as we embark on the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development.

The Argo Program serves society’s critical need for knowledge of the oceans and climate by maintaining a massive global array of 4000 autonomous undersea vehicles (see OceanOPS (ocean-ops.org)) to continuously measure and report on the state of the oceans.  The oceans receive more than 90% of the excess heat that is warming the Earth’s climate system, and Argo is the primary measurement of this key climate index.   The New York Times called Argo “one of the scientific triumphs of the age” (J. Gillis, August 11, 2014). Argo is continuing along its innovative trajectory with floats that reach the sea floor (Deep Argo, 6000 m), others that operate under ice cover, and floats that carry biogeochemical (BGC Argo) sensors for observation of the carbon cycle, ocean acidification, and productivity and health of oceanic ecosystems. Argo’s innovations are continuing to revolutionize global oceanography.

The Argo Program recognized global potential in the new technology of autonomous profiling floats, and then deployed the unprecedented subsurface ocean array. Nearly 4000 Argo floats are spread evenly around the World Ocean, with support and participation drawn from more than 25 partner nations. Floats rise from 2000 m depth to the sea surface, all the while measuring the physical state of the ocean, and repeatedly cycle from 2000 m to the sea surface every 10 days for 5 years or longer. Argo floats transmit their measurements ashore in near real-time for immediate public release. The entire Argo dataset is freely available from either of two Global Data Assembly Centers. Argo data have been used in over 4400 publications in basic research, assessment of climate variability and change, education (350 PhD theses), and operational modeling for ocean and coupled forecasting and ocean state estimation.

The distribution of active floats in the ARGO array, color coded by country that owns the float as of February 2018. Attribution: Hjfreeland – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=67718669