Science Weekly: Satellites remap ocean floor

The ocean floor has been remapped using satellite data to reveal thousands of mountains previously undetected.  (Photo courtesy University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science/MCT)
The ocean floor has been remapped using satellite data to reveal thousands of mountains previously undetected. (Source: University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science/MCT)

Researchers from Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego have created a new map of the ocean floor that’s twice as accurate as the previous map, which was created almost 20 years ago.

Thousands of mountains have been uncovered in the ocean depths, most of which reach nearly a mile high.

Researchers used satellite data from the CryoSat-2 satellite, provided by the European Space Agency (ESA), and Jason-1 from NASA, which is used to map the gravity field.

The research team claims the CryoSat-2 satellite has become invaluable to marine geodesy, although, it’s primary mission is to capture data from the polar icecaps.

Along with the new mountains discovered, researchers say this new map provides a view into the tectonics of the deep oceans, which has never been seen before.

The map provides a newly-exposed continental ridge that spreads from South America to Africa, as well as a ridge that has been covered in thick sediment that had spread apart to open up the Gulf of Mexico approximately 180 million years ago.

“One of the most important uses of this new marine gravity field will be to improve the estimates of seafloor depth in the 80 percent of oceans that remain uncharted,” said the researchers in their report published in Science on Oct. 2, 2014 .

The new map of the ocean floor, and identifying the locations of the mountains in the ocean, will help provide safer navigation for the U.S. Navy.