The ignition delay and combustion characteristics of hydrogen jets in an argon-oxygen atmosphere were investigated to provide fundamental data for operating an argon-circulated hydrogen internal combustion engine. Experiments were conducted in a constant-volume combustion vessel to study the effects of ambient temperature, ambient pressure, oxygen concentration and injection pressure on a pre-burning system. The hydrogen-jet penetration and flame were also investigated based on high-speed shadowgraph images. The experimental results indicated that the ignition delay (τ) increases as the ambient temperature (Ti) decreases, similar to the results obtained in an air atmosphere. The heat-release rate results also exhibited similar trends. In addition, other fundamental characteristics were investigated by modifying the oxygen concentration (rO2), ambient pressure (pi) and injection pressure (pj) conditions, which might help in controlling the operation in an argon-circulated hydrogen engine.