Profiling Floats in SOCCOM: Technical Capabilities for Studying the Southern Ocean
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Profiling Floats in SOCCOM: Technical Capabilities for Studying the Southern Ocean

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  • Source:
    Journal of Geophysical Research-Oceans, 123(6), 4055-4073.
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  • Description:
    We report on profiling float technology used in the Southern Ocean Carbon and Climate Observations and Models (SOCCOM) program, a 6 year study of the interaction of ocean physics and the carbon cycle in the Southern Ocean. A central part of this program is to produce and deploy 200 profiling floats equipped with CTD units and chemical sensors capable of measuring dissolved oxygen, nitrate, pH, chlorophyll fluorescence, and particulate backscatter. The performance of the first 63 floats deployed in SOCCOM is examined, and examples of the design criteria used in producing these floats are shown. Some of the sensors require surface measurements to be made in the dark at regular intervals, and the probability of ascending to the sea surface in the dark is estimated as a function of year-day and latitude. An energy budget derived from laboratory measurements shows that only about 25% of the total energy stored in the batteries is used by the biogeochemical sensors, which bodes well for the long-term survivability of the floats. The ice-avoidance algorithm is discussed in detail, and it is shown that it is working as designed and allowing unprecedented numbers of profiles to be collected beneath the wintertime ice cover. The overall reliability of the first group of SOCCOM floats is compared with a much larger ensemble of Argo floats; the results show that the SOCCOM floats are surviving at a rate similar to the Argo floats, which have been shown to have lifetimes in excess of 5 years.
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