More than 90% of the heat energy accumulation in the climate system between 1971 and the present has been in the ocean. Thus, the ocean plays a crucial role in determining the climate of the planet. Observing the oceans is problematic even under the most favourable of conditions. Historically, shipboard ocean sampling has left vast expanses, particularly in the Southern Ocean, unobserved for long periods of time. Within the past 15 years, with the advent of the global Argo array of profiling floats, it has become possible to sample the upper 2,000 m of the ocean globally and uniformly in space and time. The primary goal of Argo is to create a systematic global network of profiling floats that can be integrated with other elements of the Global Ocean Observing System. The network provides freely available temperature and salinity data from the upper 2,000 m of the ocean with global coverage. The data are available within 24 hours of collection for use in a broad range of applications that focus on examining climate-relevant variability on seasonal to decadal timescales, multidecadal climate change, improved initialization of coupled ocean-atmosphere climate models and constraining ocean analysis and forecasting systems.