Deep Tech

March 5, 2023
By Damond Benningfield


Deep Argo floats are spherical, compared to the cylindrical Argo floats, and their new design will allow them to provide environmental data at the bottom of the ocean. Credit: LEARNZ, via Nature Climate Change.

Oceanographers are getting ready to go deep. They’re deploying a network of sensors to explore the deepest parts of the oceans. The readings will help us understand more about our changing climate and the role of the oceans in storing heat.

Deep Argo is an offshoot of Argo, a network of sensors that watch the top mile or so of the oceans. It consists of almost 4,000 probes deployed across the globe. Each one spends a few days underwater, recording temperature, salinity, and currents. It then pops to the surface and transmits its readings to a satellite before descending once again. So far, Argo has provided more than two million profiles of ocean conditions.

But Argo studies only about half of the total volume of the world’s oceans. The probes can’t survive at greater depths. That means we don’t fully understand how much heat is stored in the deep ocean, how it circulates, or how it’s changing deep currents. And that’s where Deep Argo comes in.

Its probes are spheres made of glass, with a long tail to tell them when they’ve reached the bottom. They’re designed to withstand the pressure at depths of up to four miles. Scientists have deployed almost 200 of them. They’re aiming for a network of more than twelve hundred.

The sensors will help improve computer models of ocean circulation and sea-ice melting. They’ll also sharpen our understanding of how the air and oceans interact, improving not only climate models but weather forecasts—a practical advantage of going deep.