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Project manager Kjell Arne Mork with the Minister of Trade and Industry Monica Mæland (left) and Sissel Rogne (right), director of the Institute of Marine Research.
Photo: Erlend A. Lorentzen / Havforskningsinstituttet
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Research Council of Norway provides funding for new robotic floats

The Norwegian Minister of Trade and Industry Monica Mæland visited the Institute of Marine Research in Bergen to pass on the good news. During her visit, she met one of the cylindrical, yellow “marine scientists” that will drift on the ocean currents.

“In the most extreme parts of the world, it is difficult and expensive to use ships to collect data. At the same time, it is particularly important to track climate change in those areas,” says Kjell Arne Mork, who is managing the project at the Institute of Marine Research.
 
“The Argo floats that we are putting out can be equipped to measure pressure, temperature, salinity, light, pH and nutrients whatever the weather. Even under the ice.”
 
On Monday it was announced that the Argo project, which is being led by the Institute of Marine Research, will receive funding under the Research Council of Norway’s initiative for research infrastructure. In total, the Research Council will distribute NOK 1 billion to projects that will benefit many different research groups in Norway. 92 projects applied for funding, and 19 have been picked out. Each project will now enter negotiations with the Research council to make their case on how much funding to receive.
 

Reporting on ocean conditions

“One of the most important goals of the government’s strategy for marine management is building knowledge. The floats will help us to understand ocean conditions better, and hence exploit opportunities. The climate affects human activity, and the world needs food, medicine and minerals,” said Monica Mæland when she announced the news at Nykirkekaien in Bergen.
 
The government has made the funding available, but Mæland emphasises that the Research Council is responsible for deciding which projects should receive funding.
Argo floats drift on the ocean currents for several years, constantly at work. To collect data, they dive down several thousand metres below sea level. Between dives, they rise to the surface to report their findings by satellite. Within just a few hours, the data is freely available on the Internet.
 

Norwegian contribution to a global programme

Each float costs between NOK 200,000 and 800,000, depending on the number of sensors it has. As floats are expected to last for three years, they provide a lot of data for the money.
 
“We need information about ocean conditions, to help us manage our marine areas and their resources. Data from the floats can also improve forecasting of weather and ocean currents,” says Mork.
 
The new Norwegian floats are part of a collaboration between the Institute of Marine Research, the Nansen Environmental and Remote Sensing Center, the University of Bergen, Uni Research Climate, the Norwegian Meteorological Institute and Akvaplan-niva. But they are also part of a global Argo programme: in total there are 4,000 of these floats drifting around the oceans. You can see them on this map.
 

Enables new areas of research

Sissel Rogne, the Managing Director of the Institute of Marine Research, is delighted with the allocation of this funding.
 
“I am incredibly proud of our scientists who have been pushing for this. These drifting research stations will give broad access to the deep waters of the far north, enabling scientists to perform research in new areas,” says Rogne.
 
Read more on argo floats on the project website.
 
Read more on the funding.