A team of oceanographers has mapped 19 000 previously unknown undersea volcanoes using radar satellite data, which could improve ocean current modeling and submarine navigation.
A team of oceanographers at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, collaborating with researchers from Chungnam National University and the University of Hawaii, have successfully mapped 19 000 previously unknown undersea volcanoes, or seamounts, using radar satellite data. Their findings have been published in the journal Earth and Space Science. This breakthrough is crucial in enhancing our understanding of the ocean floor, improving ocean current modeling, and ensuring safer submarine navigation.
The researchers utilized radar satellite data to measure the altitude of the sea surface, which changes due to variations in gravitational pull related to seafloor topography. This method, called sea mounding, allowed scientists to detect and map the 19 325 previously unknown seamounts. The discovery expanded a previously published catalog having 24 643 seamounts to a total of 43 454.
In their paper, the team noted that seamounts are crucial in creating ocean models and studying the flow of ocean water around the world. Previously, only one-fourth of the ocean floor had been mapped, leaving a significant gap in our knowledge of the location and number of seamounts. This lack of information has caused accidents, such as the two incidents involving U.S. submarines colliding with seamounts.
Apart from helping to create more accurate ocean current models, mapping the ocean floor also assists in sea-floor mining efforts and provides valuable data for geologists studying the planet’s tectonic plates and geomagnetic field. Additionally, seamounts serve as habitats for a diverse range of marine life.
1 Global Distribution and Morphology of Small Seamounts – Julie Gevorgian, David T. Sandwell, Yao Yu, Seung-Sep Kim, Paul Wessel – Earth and Space Science – April 2023 – https://doi.org/10.1029/2022EA002331 – OPEN ACCESS
2 Radar satellite data reveals 19,000 previously unknown undersea volcanoes – Phys – April 21, 2023
Featured image credit: Julie Gevorgian et al., AGU
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