Almost a quarter of the ocean floor is now mapped

Around 25 percent (23.4 percent to be precise) of Earth’s seabed has been mapped thanks to an international initiative called Seabed 2030. It relies largely on voluntary contributions of bathymetric data (or ocean topography) from governments, companies and research institutions. The project is part of a larger UN-led initiative called The Ocean Decade. Seabed 2030 hopes to map 100 percent of the ocean floor by 2030, which researchers say will be possible progress in the technology and the integration of already available data. In the past year alone, Seabed 2030 has added measurements for around 3.8 million square miles (roughly the size of Europe), mostly through newly opened archives rather than active mapping efforts.

Scientists believe collecting more bathymetric data will help improve our understanding of climate change and ocean conservation efforts. Mapping the sea floor also helps in detecting tsunamis and other natural disasters. “A complete map of the seafloor is the missing tool we need to address some of the most pressing environmental issues of our time, including climate change and marine pollution. It will enable us to secure the future of the planet,” said Mitsuyuki Unno, executive director of the Nippon Foundation, in a press release.

As the BBC notes that much of the data used in Seabed 2030 already existed. The group relies largely on contributions from governments and companies, although some of these organizations are still reluctant to fully open their archives for fear of revealing national or trade secrets.

All data that Seabed collects in 2030 will be available to the public online on the global grid GEBCO (General Bathymetric Chart of the Oceans). Before Seabed 2030, very little directly measured seabed data was available for public use. Most bathymetric measurements are estimated using satellite altimeters, which give a very rough idea of ​​the shape of the seabed surface. Some scientists believe that a global attempt to locate the crash of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 would have been better informed by newer, more accurate seafloor mapping methods.

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