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Weather robots hit the sea

Better weather forecasts from seaborne automata

From March next year thousands of robots will be clinging to the bottom of our oceans to help the Met Office predict future weather conditions.

Known as project Argo, the project will launch 3,000 free-drifting robots into the murky depths of the sea, at depths of around 2,000m. The devices will then float to the surface every ten days allowing Met Office researchers to gather readings of the temperature and salinity (saltiness) of different areas of the ocean.

"Over the next five years Argo will become a vital system for oceanographers and meteorologists in their search for ever-more accurate predictions of climate change," said Jon Turton, project manager.

Data will be transmitted via satellites orbiting the earth to oceanographic centres, allowing researchers to predict weather conditions as far as a month in advance. After ten days topside the robotswill then float back down towards the seabed.

The Met Office predicts each robot will be capable of making 150 journeys to the surface and survive around five years.

Fourteen countries are taking part in the five-year, £24m project, including India, New Zealand and most of mainland Europe.

"The ocean data that Argo provides will also lead to better long-term weather forecasts for many area of the world that are vulnerable to floods and drought," added Turton.


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