why-scientists-want-to-map-the-entire-ocean-floor

Context: An international collaboration of researchers recently claimed that it had finished mapping nearly one-fifth of the world’s ocean floor.

More on the news:

  • It is  a new milestone in the history of marine exploration, The Nippon Foundation-GEBCO Seabed 2030 Project, which is coordinating efforts to complete the mapping of the entire ocean floor by 2030. 
  • The announcement was made on World Hydrography Day (June 21) that it had added 1.45 crore square kilometres of new bathymetric data to its latest grid.
  • Since the launch of the project in 2017, the surveying of the ocean bed as per modern standards has gone up from around 6 per cent to 19 per cent.

Importance of the study:

  • Help in understanding several natural phenomena: 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. 
  • 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: The previously mapped seafloor helped scientists in Japan to reconstruct the forces behind the destructive 2011 Tohoku earthquake.
    • The need for a bathymetric base map of the southeastern Indian Ocean also became particularly evident in the search for the Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, which disappeared 8 March 2014.
  • Better understanding of Climate change:  The maps would also ensure a better understanding of climate change, since floor features including canyons and underwater volcanoes influence phenomena such as ocean currents, which act as conveyor belts of warm and cold water, thus influencing the weather and climate. 
  • Help achieve SDG: 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). 
    • A bathymetric chart is a type of isarithmic map that depicts the submerged topography and physiographic features of ocean and sea bottoms. Their primary purpose is to provide detailed depth contours of ocean topography as well as provide the size, shape and distribution of underwater features.
  • GEBCO is the only intergovernmental organisation 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.
  • For this, the project aims to rope in governments, private companies, and international organisations to acquire data.
  • Significance:
    • In the past, satellites and planes carrying altimeter instruments have been able to provide large swathes of data about the ocean floor. 
    • The Seabed 2030 Project, however, aims to obtain higher quality information, using equipment such as deepwater hull-mounted sonar systems, and more advanced options such as Underwater Vehicles (AUVs).

This is a leap forward towards achieving the mission, by the year 2030, to empower the world to make policy decisions, use the ocean sustainability and undertake scientific research based on detailed bathymetric information of the Earth’s seabed.

Oceanic Floor

  • There are mountains, basins, plateaus, ridges, canyons and trenches beneath the ocean water too, which constitute the ocean floor.
  • These relief features found on the ocean floor are called Submarine Relief.
  • The ocean basins are broadly divided into four major subdivisions. They are
  1. Continental Shelf
  2. Continental slope
  3. Abyssal plains
  4. The ocean deeps/ submarine trenches

Source: https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/mapping-the-ocean-floor-6473482/

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