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Mapping ocean floor

Date: 25 June 2020 Tags: Geography & Environment


An international collaboration of researchers said on June 21 that it had finished mapping nearly one-fifth of the world’s ocean floor.



The Nippon Foundation-GEBCO Seabed 2030 Project, which is coordinating efforts to complete the mapping of the entire ocean floor by 2030, said that it had added 1.45 crore square kilometers of new bathymetric data to its latest grid.



The Seabed 2030 Project aims to obtain higher quality information that has a minimum resolution of 100 m at all spots, using equipment such as deepwater hull-mounted sonar systems, and more advanced options such as Underwater Vehicles (AUVs).


Importance of mapping ocean floor

  • The knowledge of bathymetry, the measurement of the shape and depth of the ocean floor, is instrumental in understanding several natural phenomena, including ocean circulation, tides, and biological hotspots.

  • It also provides key inputs for navigation, forecasting tsunamis, exploration for oil and gas projects, building offshore wind turbines, fishing resources, and for laying cables and pipelines.

  • This data becomes highly valuable during disaster situations.  Thanks to the previously mapped seafloor, scientists in Japan were able to reconstruct the forces behind the destructive 2011 Tohoku earthquake.

  • The need for a bathymetric base map of the south-eastern Indian Ocean also became particularly evident in the search for the Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, which disappeared 8 March 2014.

  • The maps would also ensure a better understanding of climate change, since floor features including canyons and underwater volcanoes influence phenomena such as the vertical mixing of ocean water, and ocean currents.

  • Climate change has impacted the flow of these currents, and more knowledge about them would help scientists create models forecasting the future behavior of the climate, including sea-level rise.

  • A map of the entire global ocean floor would also help further achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal to conserve and sustainably use oceans, seas, and marine resources.


The Seabed 2030 Project

  • The global initiative is a collaboration between Japan’s non-profit Nippon Foundation and the General Bathymetric Chart of the Oceans (GEBCO). GEBCO is the only intergovernmental organization with a mandate to map the entire ocean floor.

  • The Project was launched at the United Nations Ocean Conference in 2017, and coordinates and oversees the sourcing and compilation of bathymetric data from different parts of the world’s ocean through its five centers into the freely-available GEBCO Grid.

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