USA makes USD 53 million investment in ocean observing for the future

The U.S. National Science Foundation has just approved a $53 million grant to develop the biogeochemical mission of the global Argo array. 

This substantial contribution will add 500 floats to the global Argo network in the next five years (see Networks map below) and will boost the array to meet 50% of its target for global biogeochemical sampling of the ocean.

The investment marks the next phase of the Argo implementation story that started in the 2000s with the core Argo mission to measure and map ocean heat. Twenty years later and with an array of 4000 floats, Argo plays a vital role in our climate and weather forecasts.

The new biogeochemical (BGC) profiling floats, sampling the ocean from surface to a depth of 2000m, will provide the first global maps of ocean chemistry and biology. This data will be the foundation for the first global view of the ocean health and enable us to track the large-scale patterns of climate change on ocean chemistry and life, providing connection between many coastal monitoring data sets. It will also support development of new ocean forecast capabilities.

Argo network

This evolution of the Argo array is the result of two decades of progress with float and sensor technology. The BGC sensors will measure dissolved oxygen concentration, pH, nitrate concentration, chlorophyll concentration, nutrients and downwelling irradiance. These data will enable observation of the health and productivity of ocean ecosystems, monitor the biogeochemical cycles of  carbon, oxygen, nitrogen and biomass in the ocean regardless of the season, improve climate and fisheries numerical models, as well as forecast the variability and effects of ocean warming and acidification on sea life.

After 10 years of international cooperation and technical adaptation to become an operational reality, the Argo network is now fit for providing the science leapfrogging required from the upcoming UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development. Fourteen countries have been supporting the BGC Argo mission through several regional pilots.

BCG Argo
One of the three main models of BGC-Argo floats presently in use.
BCG Argo description
Major research and management topics and sensors applicable to topics (from https://biogeochemical-argo.org/scientific-questions-general-context.php).

“The GO-BGC Array will extend the regional BGC-Argo observing programs that have been built by the International community to the global ocean. These combined efforts will produce a global system for observing the impact of climate variability on the ocean and ocean life.” Ken Johnson, MBARI and PI for the GO-BGC Array project

This major US National Science Foundation investment of $53 million over 5 years is a great step forward and hopefully will encourage other countries to use this momentum and further develop their BGC Argo component. To support the international Argo coordinating infrastructure and help communicate on the outcomes of this expansion, a BGC Argo focal point position will be established Monaco in 2021, funded by the Société des Explorations de Monaco, and forming part of the OceanOPS team.

The expansion of the Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS), coordinated by UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission, across more climate and ocean health related observations is vital for future information services around the blue economy and the sustainable management of our ocean resource. Further projects across the observing system platforms in support of this expansion of ocean data into the chemical and biological realms can be expected to form part of the Ocean Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development.

“This is a tremendously exciting development for the ocean community. The development of global ocean biogeochemical measurements aboard the successful Argo program will lead to profoundly new insights into the changes of the living ocean.” David Legler, Chair – GOOS Observations Coordination Group [1]

***

For further information, please contact:

Albert Fischer, GOOS Office Director and Head, Ocean Science and Services Section, Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO (a.fischer@unesco.org)

UNESCO, Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission. 16 November 2020. Article.

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