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Robotic Floats Will Collect New Data On How Climate Change Is Affecting Our Oceans

A biogeochemical float, similar to the ones that will be built by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography with new funding for the new Global Ocean Biogeochemistry Array, being deployed in this undated photo.
SOCCOM Project
A biogeochemical float, similar to the ones that will be built by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography with new funding for the new Global Ocean Biogeochemistry Array, being deployed in this undated photo.
Scripps Institution of Oceanography is part of a consortium that will deploy 500 new robotic floats, to collect data about what is going on under the surface of the ocean as the planet warms.

Scripps Institution of Oceanography is part of a consortium of the country’s top ocean-research organizations that will deploy 500 new robotic floats, to collect data about what is going on under the surface of the ocean as the planet warms.

This new initiative, funded with $53 million from the National Science Foundation, could help to transform our understanding of how climate change is affecting our marine ecosystem.

Scripps Institution of Oceanography's Lynne Talley is one of the co-principal investigators on the Global Ocean BioGeoChemistry project.

She said thousands of floats already positioned around the world’s oceans are measuring temperature and salinity, but these new floating monitors will collect data on acidity, nitrates and oxygen plus biomass.

The floats will be positioned all over the world’s oceans and will descend to two thousand meters every few days, before surfacing regularly to transmit data to a satellite.

The floats don’t stay in one place, she explained, they move and drift on ocean currents on the surface and in the deep ocean. They measure conditions in the top half of the ocean.

The data is all public, Talley said, and is handled by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration as part of an international ocean monitoring system.

Scripps has had a pilot project in the Southern Ocean for the past few years sending down floats adopted by school classrooms. Talley said classes have followed floats for years, graphing the data received for science projects.

The first batch of the new floats should start going into the ocean next spring, Talley said, and the consortium plans to position about 100 floats a year, all over the world.

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