7. January 2012 06:12
Mapping the ocean floor is important to scientists understanding of bottom topography. With a good understanding of the bathymetry in a given area researchers can focus their time and energy on the myriad of tasks at hand during ocean exploration. GPS or Global Positioning Systems collect data that are then combined with the latest bathymetric information collected using various technologies. Those technologies include ROV and submersible data, shipboard swath mapping, side scan sonar, and seismic reflection. Multibeam sonar is also currently used featuring hundreds of narrow adjacent beams arranged in a fanlike pattern that provides high angular resolution and accuracy.
By mapping the seafloor scientists are also getting a better understanding of plate tectonics and sea-floor spreading, a process in which the ocean floor is extended when two plates move apart causing what is known as a divergent boundary. Earthquakes occur along both divergent and convergent boundaries. But aside from geological and bathymetric mapping data scientists can also get a better understanding of ecological maps that provide an ecosystem-level assessment of biological, ecological and the social effects in fishing areas that have been closed to commercial fishing. This increases the understanding of the ecosystem and provides guidance for resource management. High-resolution seafloor mapping and associated products will aid coastal and ocean management areas such as: modeling tsunamis, flood inundation and sea-level rise; characterizing and identifying marine habitats; selecting appropriate sites for renewable ocean energy projects; identifying geological hazards and sediment transport pathways; improving circulation models; enhancing safe and efficient marine transportation; and monitoring environmental changes such as habitat restorations.