Oct 06, 2014 12:31 AM EDT
Seven-tenths of the Earth's surface is covered by oceans, and until now much of what lies below the surface has not been seen by human eyes. But using some of technology's greatest advancements on-board the European Space Agency's CryoSat-2 satellite and NASA's Jason-1 satellite, researchers of the University of California, San Diego have created an underwater map revealing mountains and ridges along the seafloor thanks to precise gravity measurements.
"The pull of gravity reflects the topography and tectonics of the seafloor" lead researcher of the study published in this week's issue of the journal Science, David Sandwell says. And with that the international research team led by Sandwell was able to address growing concerns about the lack of knowledge we have about our ocean's depths, spurred by the recent disappearance of Malaysia flight MH370, which has still yet to be recovered.
With large gaps in the current ocean map surveys, conducted by survey ships equipped with acoustic devices that beam to the depths of the ocean and help create mapping by echolocation, the team utilizing Earth-orbiting satellites was able to give a clear view of the topography of the entire seafloor far greater than the approximates 10% view that current surveys have mapped. And the significance of this research is far greater than just booming human knowledge of the Earth, because of the practical applications it allows as well.
"We know much more about the topography of Mars than we know about Earth's seafloor" geophysicist Dietmar Muller from the University of Sydney who was also involved in the research, says. "The disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 earlier this year heightened global awareness of the poor knowledge of our ocean depths."
The new map which includes topography of major structures and tectonic plates, allows for researchers to discover newly found ridges and cracks within the Earth's surface that may or may not be related to past events or future disasters.
"Knowing where and when such ridges existed is essential for deciphering planet Earth's geological past" Muller says.
While the scientific value of the research is indeed vast, the practical applications of the researchers' discovery could translate into billions of dollars in revenue as it carries many possible areas of exploration for militaries and oil exploration in the un-tapped depths of the oceans.
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