SEA Days: Diving Deeper with Argo

Every month, the third Saturday is a special day at Birch Aquarium: SEA DaysAs the tagline suggests, SEA Days are always full of  “Science, Exploration and Adventure.” Visitors and members can meet a Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego or local researcher and get hands-on with science, participate in activity stations, and get creative with a thematic craft.

This month, we are featuring the work of Scripps Oceanography’s Megan Scanderberg, who shares the important work of the Argo float program. 

Megan in the float lab at Scripps Institution of Oceanography with SOLO-II floats being prepared for shipping and deployment.

Name:  Megan Scanderbeg

Hometown:  Seattle, WA

Schooling background:  BA in Physics from Pomona College, MSc in Material Science & Engineering from UC San Diego and MEd in Secondary Education from UC San Diego.  

One word to describe a characteristic a scientist should have:  passion and patience

How does your research affect a person’s everyday life?

Argo floats give us more than 10,000 profiles of the temperature and salinity measurements in the world ocean every month which helps scientists to study the ocean and how it is changing.  For example, Argo data are used to help predict how sea level will rise in the future due to a warmer ocean and to better understand and predict weather patterns like El Nino.  Argo data are now crucial in climate and ocean forecasting services which are used for a variety of applications like search and rescue, fisheries management and disaster preparedness.  

How did you decide to work on this particular issue?

I wanted to leave the classroom and find a position where I was more directly involved in doing science and research.  I love the ocean and a friend suggested I try to find a job at Scripps Institution of Oceanography.  After interviewing for a few positions, I was offered the role of Argo Science Coordinator and it sounded like a great opportunity to work on an international program studying the physics of the world ocean and making all the data freely available to the public.   

Deep SOLO float deployment off the side of a research vessel.

How do you predict the story of our ocean will change in the future?

Argo data currently only covers the top 2000 meters of the ocean, but there are many places in the ocean that are deeper than that.  New Deep Argo float prototypes are being developed that go down to 6000 meters and data from these floats will help scientists understand the ocean’s heat storage better.  Besides going deeper into the ocean, some Argo floats are beginning to carry additional sensors that measure biogeochemical parameters like oxygen, chlorophyll, pH, and nitrates.  These new parameters will help scientists learn about how much carbon the ocean is absorbing and releasing into the atmosphere which plays a role in global warming.  I hope this additional information from Argo floats will aid people around the world in preparing for and mitigating sea level rise and climate change in general.  

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Scripps Institution of Oceanography UC San Diego