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March 3, 2021

Argo floats will track health of Indian Ocean

Bigger and better sea-going, bio-data collectors called Argo floats are being released in the Indian Ocean in 2014 as part of Australia’s protection and development of its ocean-based economy.

The Indian Ocean is strategically important to its border nations including Australia. For one thing it drives the climate of its surrounding regions, which make up more than 16 per cent of the world’s population.

The East Indian Ocean alone, is home to almost half of the world’s fishermen and women, and it yields around 8 per cent of global fish production, and includes a tuna fishery with an estimated annual value of US$2-3 billion.

argo floats
Above: Argo float being deployed.

The third largest ocean in the world also contains mineral resources like copper, iron, zinc, silver and gold.

The new Argo floats, to be launched in mid-2014, are bigger and more sophisticated than their predecessors. They can measure large-scale changes in the chemistry and biology of marine ecosystems below the Indian Ocean’s surface.

The Argo float program is part of CSIRO’s Wealth from Oceans Flagship that helps to manage Australia’s marine territory, the third largest in the world, in an efficient, equitable and sustainable manner.

The ocean-based or ‘blue’ economy is crucial to Australia’s food and energy security, its response and adaption to climate change and biodiversity protection is important, the CSIRO said.

argo floats diagram

The new program builds on the existing Argo float program that has been developed since 2000, and includes a network of 3600 free-floating devices, owned and operated by more than 30 different international research organisations, operating in oceans across the planet.

The latest Argo floats can measure dissolved oxygen, nitrate, chlorophyll, dissolved organic matter, and particle scattering.

About the size of a big barracuda (1.5 metres), the devices are programmed to dive to depths of 1000m and 2000m over a ten-day period, and make measurements as they go. They will repeat this cycle for years at a time relaying date back to a control centre via satellite.

Data form the Argo floats is important for predicting how much food the Indian Ocean can produce, and how much carbon dioxide it can capture – which has a direct impact on climate.

Collecting this data will also provide a better idea of what keeps the Indian Ocean healthy, and help to understand how the ocean influences both the climate and extreme weather events.

Images supplied by CSIRO.

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