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Researchers Have Mapped Out Nearly 20% of the World’s Ocean Floor

23 June 20

Scientists have been working to create a full map of the ocean floor for a few years now, and it seems they have recently marked one-fifth of the task to be complete.

Back in 2017, the Japan-based Nippon foundation and the intergovernmental organization the General Bathymetric Chart of the Ocean (GEBCO) teamed up for a new project called Seabed 2030. Their goal is to map out the entire ocean floor by 2030. This would help scientists better understand tides & tsunamis, and better predict the changes in sea levels due to climate change. Not to mention, this information would be useful for industries looking to exploit oil, gas, and minerals in the deep sea as well as for telecom companies laying down undersea cables.

When the project launched in 2017, only 6% of the Earth’s seafloor had been mapped. This new milestone of 20%, therefore, is quite a big leap. This is about double the size of Australia, with about double the size of Mars still remaining unmapped. As of now, all maps and data are available to the public.

How does this whole process work? Well, by sending sound pulses down to the bottom of the ocean from ships, technology can calculate the depth based on how long it took for the ping to bounce back up. The deeper the water, the more difficult it is to gather high-resolution bathymetric data – the typography of the ocean floor. According to Seabed 2030, it would take a single ship 350 years to map out 93% of Earth’s oceans that are deeper than 200 meters. Therefore, the project gathers data from governments, academic researchers, and commercial ships. Seabed 2030 also expects to deploy uncrewed vehicles in the future, which would help reduce the time, cost, and labour needed for the project. So far, it’s estimated that meeting the project’s 2030 goal could cost around $3 billion.

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