The Global ARGO Array sounds like something from a science fiction movie doesn’t it. Well, it’s not, it’s a series of more than 3500 Robotic free floating probes deployed to monitor the changes in the oceans temperature and salinity supported a network of 30 partner nations offering worldwide coverage.

Established 15 years ago the ARGO program provides continual real time reporting of open source data originally with the hope of providing insight for International Climate change researchers, but is also providing oceanographers insights into the ongoing changes in the oceans, data that has also proved invaluable to meteorologists in weather forecasting, and offers insights related to fisheries management.

Before the inception of the ARGO project data was collected manually using ship based sampling and reporting which was not only subjective and time delayed, but collection was inconsistent, and measurement equipment and method were not standardized.

The “Journal of Nature” has published “Fifteen years of ocean observations with the global Argo array”, an article that has been co-authored by Howard Freeland, an Emeritus Scientist in physical oceanography at DFO’s Institute of Ocean Sciences as noted in the DFO article published February 2016.

The oceans play a major role in our weather and climate and the entire ecosystem. This has been evidenced during the recent El Nino when a warm blob formed in the middle of the Pacific Ocean as a result of a high pressure ridge that sat mid ocean for an extended period affecting the wind in the area. This lack of wind resulted in shutting down the natural wind driven ocean action that recirculates the deeper cooler water to the surface and cycles the sun warmed surface water down. This lack of wind allowed the surface waters to continue to warm and raised the ocean temperatures more than 3 degrees affecting everything from the plankton, that were being starved of nutrients because of the lack of circulation, to the ocean mammals at the top of the food chain. Warming can also promote a greater amount of evaporation which without circulation, and no rainfall, can cause an increase in salinity in the affected ocean areas.

Feeding and migration patterns were altered in the oceans with tropical species of fish being found in north Pacific waters the effects were also felt on the land. Drought conditions persisted from California to Alaska with such a lack of rainfall that DFO (Department of Fisheries and Oceans) closed nearly every river in British Columbia, many of which were completely dry, to fishing to protect the stocks, forests were closed to camping fires far earlier than normal and water conservation measures were put into place nearly everywhere.

Thank goodness for an early rain the last week of August putting some water into the dry creek beds helping raise the water levels in the severely depleted lakes and drenching the forests with some much needed moisture, a good thing with the salmon spawning runs taking place. With a little human intervention in some areas from stream keepers we are assured that salmon spawns were able to take place.

The good news here is that the warm blob has now passed, as confirmed by Nasa’s infrared pictures of the ocean which will be confirmed by measurements coming from the ARGO drones and over the next couple of years the ocean should slowly return to normal.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada has announced they are a strong contributor to the international Argo project confirming in their on line post that since 2001, they have launched 340 Argo floats, 100 of which are still operating.

We need healthy oceans to sustain all life and ensure the survival of our keystone species such herring and salmon long into the future and as evidenced during the recent phenomenon our ocean life is very sensitive to temperature and salinity changes.

What is the future of this collaborative project and what other on board measuring devices might be added to provide additional data for researchers to catalog and interpret such as acidity, chemical composition and more as future drones are added to the Argo Array. Technology has made leaps and bounds in the last 15 years so perhaps it is time to challenge the techs and scientists to work together on data collection for the future, drone longevity and assessment programs

The greater the data collected the more that can be gleaned from it painting a picture for the future of International climate change and provide insight into what can be done to stay the manmade climate change effects that appear to be threatening our survival on earth.

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