In ten years, scientists hope to have mapped the entire ocean floor in high resolution. This week, the Nippon Foundation-GEBCO Seabed 2030 Project announced that they've completed 20 percent of the map. A full mapping to "modern standards" is useful for conservation and also to support scientific understanding of ocean systems, weather, tsunami wave propagation, tides, and, of course, the impact of climate change. From the BBC News:
The map at the top of this page illustrates the challenge faced by GEBCO in the coming years.
Black represents those areas where we have yet to get direct echosounding measurements of the shape of the ocean floor. Blues correspond to water depth (deeper is purple, shallower is lighter blue)[…]
This is information required to improve the models that forecast future climate change – because it is the oceans that play a critical role in moving heat around the planet. And if you want to understand precisely how sea-levels will rise in different parts of the world, good ocean-floor maps are a must.
Much of the data that's been imported into the GEBCO grid recently has been in existence for some time but was "sitting on a shelf" out of the public domain. The companies, institutions and governments that were holding this information have now handed it over – and there is probably a lot more of this hidden resource still to be released.
But new acquisitions will also be required. Some of these will come from a great crowdsourcing effort – from ships, big and small, routinely operating their echo-sounding equipment as they transit the globe. Even small vessels – fishing boats and yachts – can play their part by attaching data-loggers to their sonar and navigation equipment.