The scientific rationale, design and implementation plan for a Biogeochemical-Argo float array

Type Report
Date 2016
Language English
Author(s) Biogeochemical-Argo Planning Group
Contributor(s) Claustre H, Johnson K
DOI 10.13155/46601
Publisher Ifremer
Abstract Biogeochemical-Argo is the extension of the Argo array of profiling floats to include floats that are equipped with biogeochemical sensors for pH, oxygen, nitrate, chlorophyll, suspended particles, and downwelling irradiance. Argo is a highly regarded, international program that measures the changing ocean temperature (heat content) and salinity with profiling floats distributed throughout the ocean. Newly developed sensors now allow profiling floats to also observe biogeochemical properties with sufficient accuracy for climate studies. This extension of Argo will enable an observing system that can determine the seasonal to decadal-scale variability in biological productivity, the supply of essential plant nutrients from deep-waters to the sunlit surface layer, ocean acidification, hypoxia, and ocean uptake of CO2. Biogeochemical-Argo will drive a transformative shift in our ability to observe and predict the effects of climate change on ocean metabolism, carbon uptake, and living marine resource management.

Presently, vast areas of the open ocean are sampled only once per decade or less, with sampling occurring mainly in summer. Our ability to detect changes in biogeochemical processes that may occur due to the warming and acidification driven by increasing atmospheric CO2, as well as by natural climate variability, is greatly hindered by this undersampling. In close synergy with satellite systems (which are effective at detecting global patterns for a few biogeochemical parameters, but only very close to the sea surface and in the absence of clouds), a global array of biogeochemical sensors would revolutionize our understanding of ocean carbon uptake, productivity, and deoxygenation. The array would reveal the biological, chemical, and physical events that control these processes. Such a system would enable a new generation of global ocean prediction systems in support of carbon cycling, acidification, hypoxia and harmful algal blooms studies, as well as the management of living marine resources.

In order to prepare for a global Biogeochemical-Argo array, several prototype profiling float arrays have been developed at the regional scale by various countries and are now operating. Examples include regional arrays in the Southern Ocean (SOCCOM ), the North Atlantic Sub-polar Gyre (remOcean ), the Mediterranean Sea (NAOS ), the Kuroshio region of the North Pacific (INBOX ), and the Indian Ocean (IOBioArgo ). For example, the SOCCOM program is deploying 200 profiling floats with biogeochemical sensors throughout the Southern Ocean, including areas covered seasonally with ice. The resulting data, which are publically available in real time, are being linked with computer models to better understand the role of the Southern Ocean in influencing CO2 uptake, biological productivity, and nutrient supply to distant regions of the world ocean.

The success of these regional projects has motivated a planning meeting to discuss the requirements for and applications of a global-scale Biogeochemical-Argo program. The meeting was held 11-13 January 2016 in Villefranche-sur-Mer, France with attendees from eight nations now deploying Argo floats with biogeochemical sensors present to discuss this topic. In preparation, computer simulations and a variety of analyses were conducted to assess the resources required for the transition to a global-scale array. Based on these analyses and simulations, it was concluded that an array of about 1000 biogeochemical profiling floats would provide the needed resolution to greatly improve our understanding of biogeochemical processes and to enable significant improvement in ecosystem models. With an endurance of four years for a Biogeochemical-Argo float, this system would require the procurement and deployment of 250 new floats per year to maintain a 1000 float array. The lifetime cost for a Biogeochemical-Argo float, including capital expense, calibration, data management, and data transmission, is about $100,000. A global Biogeochemical-Argo system would thus cost about $25,000,000 annually. In the present Argo paradigm, the US provides half of the profiling floats in the array, while the EU, Austral/Asia, and Canada share most the remaining half. If this approach is adopted, the US cost for the Biogeochemical-Argo system would be ~$12,500,000 annually and ~$6,250,000 each for the EU, and Austral/Asia and Canada. This includes no direct costs for ship time and presumes that float deployments can be carried out from future research cruises of opportunity, including, for example, the international GO-SHIP program (

The full-scale implementation of a global Biogeochemical-Argo system with 1000 floats is feasible within a decade. The successful, ongoing pilot projects have provided the foundation and start for such a system.
Full Text
File Pages Size Access
46508.pdf 65 6 MB Open access
Top of the page

How to cite 

Biogeochemical-Argo Planning Group (2016). The scientific rationale, design and implementation plan for a Biogeochemical-Argo float array.