In one of the most epic discoveries in recent ocean history, the locating of thousands of newly discovered volcanoes was made possible thanks to a brand new topographic map of the ocean floor.
Thanks to a system of radar pings, that essentially calculate the time lapse that occurs when waves are traveling to the bottom of the ocean, and then ringing back up slowly – the bottom of the ocean was better identified than it ever had been before. This is called altimetry, and this method for determining depth under water is perfect for areas of the ocean floor is relatively unknown, or has had little research done on it.
And now, the count of Seamounts has risen dramatically. The count went from 5,000 which were previously noted to a whopping 20,000 globally. A serious growth over previous numbers. Seamounts are small volcanoes that are typically extinct, or very inactive.
Never before seen gashes, where continental lines once laid, and eventually ripped apart. The last map though was produced in 1997 and it was found that this new map was twice as accurate, and four times better in the arctic and coastal regions – two very crucial regions that scientists want to fully understand.
Understanding these tectonic movements and having better mapping to thoroughly understand what we’re seeing is something that scientists want to utilize heavily moving forward. The amount of aquatic life that are attracted to these seamounts is staggering. Effectively, they create the most diverse spaces in the oceans and can have the greatest insight as to learning more about creatures that previously, we’ve known least about.
Gaining a more thorough understanding of what the sea floor looks like will arm scientists with more base knowledge heading into further investigations. While it wasn’t a new or exciting discovery, it was an update to a previously outdated discovery. The information that was had previously wasn’t bad information, but it was information that wouldn’t have done a lot for us as we move forward trying to understand marine life more tomorrow.
The lead study author was David Sandwell, and he is a marine geophysicist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, California.