Out in rough seas
Out in rough seas ©

Our climate is maintained by the interaction of many complex processes in the atmosphere, on land and in the oceans. The oceans and atmosphere share the task of moving the excess solar heating of tropical regions towards the poles.

As the oceans have an enormous capacity to store heat (just two metres of ocean can hold as much as the entire atmosphere) they can even out seasonal and year-to-year changes in our climate.

Measurements for almost two centuries exist for the temperature, pressure and winds from the atmosphere,  but records of ocean temperature, salinity and currents span barely 50 years.

The Argo project will provide global measurements of the oceans that are vital to understanding and predicting climate change. The data are used with information from earth-observing satellites and ships to make computer models of ocean circulation, temperature and salinity.

This will enable scientists to measure seasonal and year-to-year changes in the ocean and to detect changes in the ocean caused either by the global warming of the atmosphere or by the onset of climate events like El Niño.

Using this combination of ocean data, satellite measurements and models, scientists hope to be able to make long-term predictions about the Earth’s climate.


Ministry of Defence (MOD)    National Oceanography Centre, Southampton (NOCS)     Met Office     British Oceanographic Data Centre (BODC)     Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra)