Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist Paul G. Allen and NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory will deploy a large array of new deep ocean floats to expand ocean observations in a key area of the western South Atlantic Ocean.
The Deep Argo floats can collect data down to nearly four miles deep and promise to lead scientists to a better understanding of how the bottom half of the ocean may influence long term weather, climate, and sea level rise.
Paul G. Allen Philanthropies has committed more than $4 million for the multi-year project, Jump-Starting Deep Argo. Allen’s research vessel R/V Petrel will deploy an array of these floats in the deep international waters east of Brazil.
It is NOAA’s first formal public-private partnership for sustained ocean observations.
NOAA chose the western South Atlantic for the array because it provides a window into the global thermohaline circulation, called the great ocean conveyor belt, which is linked to global climate variations. At the bottom of the basin, very cold, dense Antarctic water flows northward while just above, slightly warmer, lighter North Atlantic deep water flows southward. Limited data have shown that the Antarctic water has been warming over the last three decades.
The project expands on the success of Argo, an international array of almost 4,000 freely drifting floats that measure temperature and salinity in the upper 2,000 meters (1.2 miles) of the global ocean. Since 2000, Argo has revolutionized oceanography, providing oceanographic data publicly in near real-time.
While Argo provides data on the upper half of the ocean volume, Deep Argo floats, which dive to 6,000 meters or 3.7 miles, will probe the less-understood bottom half.
This new project will be the first comprehensive sampling of an entire deep ocean basin by this technology, which has been previously tested only in small pilot deployments.
Researchers from NOAA’s cooperative institutes at the University of Hawaii and University of Washington will contribute to the project.