Inside the Collection

Oceans, data, and climate change: Sea Robots

Argo Float
Photography by Marinoc Kojdanovski, Powerhouse Museum.

Attention data nerds and science geeks, you will love this object.

This is what is known as an Argo float (I prefer the term sea robot), the picture doesn’t give you a sense of scale but the whole unit is about 6 feet tall. They are used to gather scientific data about the worlds oceans, and help in ongoing research about climate change.

To be exact there are 3000 of these floats drifting along in the worlds ocean currents measuring temperature and salinity in the upper 2000m of the ocean.

Graphic of how an Argo Float functions
Image courtesy of Argo

They are dumped off ships into the ocean and using an internal programmable bladder system they delve down to be “parked” at pre set depth. At 10 day intervals they pop back up to the surface to transmit their data via satellite, then sink once again. They are designed to make about 150 of these cycles.

The best thing about the Argo collaboration is that all the data is available to anyone, in real time, from their website.

Map of where all the Argo Floats are located in the worlds oceans. Text "3256 Floats 19-Jan-2011"
Image courtesy of Argo

The 3000 floats provide 100,000 temperature/salinity profiles and velocity measurements per year distributed over the global oceans.

The Argo float pictured above is currently on display in Ecologic: creating a sustainable future.

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