Almost a fifth of Earth’s ocean floor has been mapped

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It could help with biology, tide tracking and internet cables.
UNSPECIFIED - CIRCA 2003:  Planisphere of the oceans floor, structure of the mid-oceanic trenches where new crust is created. Colour illustration. (Photo by DeAgostini/Getty Images)
DeAgostini/Getty Images

Us humans know more about the surface of the Moon than we do Earth’s oceans, but there’s progress on closing that gap. The Seabed 3030 Project reports (via BBC News) that scientists have mapped 19 percent of ocean floors to contemporary standards, or a huge leap over the six percent from Seabed’s launch in 2017. A significant portion comes from nearly 5.6 million square miles of depth data collected in project partner GEBCO’s grid in 2019. That’s roughly twice the size of Australia, Seabed 2030 said.

The initiative has been helped by 133 contributors, partners and supporters. Some of the data, including GEBCO’s latest, had been publicly available but hadn’t been turned over until recently. Organization leaders are also counting on crowdsourced ship data and even robotic mapping vessels to fill in the gaps.

There’s still a lot of work left to reach the 2030 target of mapping everything, and much of it is the deep sea. A complete map could be beneficial on many levels, however. It should improve humanity’s understanding of the oceans (including tides and tsunamis), help sustain sealife populations and even aid in laying undersea data cables. The years of work could easily pay off if they protect the environment and improve data access for everyone.

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