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Satellites expose mysteries of the deep ocean

New global seafloor map is most accurate ever created

By
3:50pm, October 2, 2014
new map charts the depths of Earth’s oceans

SUNKEN SURFACE  A new map charts the depths of Earth’s oceans (Atlantic shown) in unprecedented detail using satellite data. Warm colors correspond to formations such as mountains and continental shelves; bluer colors represent deeper areas such as trenches.

A new comprehensive map of Earth’s seafloor reveals never-before-seen features hidden deep below the waves, including thousands of uncharted underwater mountains. The map, presented in the Oct. 3 Science, is the most accurate global seafloor map ever made and could provide new clues to how Earth’s surface got its shape.

“We know a lot about the continents, but we know almost nothing about what’s going on in the oceans,” says lead author David Sandwell, an earth scientist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, Calif. “It’s like being on another planet; the ocean is probably the most unexplored feature in the inner solar system.”

Over the last 40 years, hundreds of ships have mapped slices of the seafloor by measuring how long it takes for sound to bounce off the ocean bottom. However, roughly 80 percent of the ocean floor

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