The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced that the United States would join the Seabed 2030 project aimed at mapping 100% of the Earth’s ocean floors by 2030. In a statement announcing the entry, a NOAA spokesperson said writes, “We know less about the ocean floor than we do about the surface of the moon and Mars.” The Nippon Foundation-General Bathymetric Chart of the Oceans Seabed 2030 Project (or Seabed 2030 for short) strives to change that, and last month NOAA Administrator Rick Spinrad signed a document committing the United States to support the effort.
At the time of this announcement in June 2022, 23.4% of the world’s oceans have been mapped. There is usually more data on the seabed near the coasts because there is usually more going on there – from economic interests to military needs – so this project will be particularly focused on deep sea data. Seabed 2030 is working there including collecting all existing bathymetric data and information from recreational and commercial vessels around the world. According to the National Ocean Service, “the term ‘bathymetry’ originally referred to the depth of the ocean relative to sea level, although it has come to mean ‘underwater topography’, or the depths and forms of the underwater terrain”. An example is seen in the above image of San Francisco Bay.
This project goes beyond the mere production of maps and datasets. “Seafloor data is fundamental to determining how the ocean functions. Beyond navigation, the shape of the ocean floor plays an important role in the movement of ocean debris and pollution across its surface. and its currents Knowledge of the depths can provide information for sustainable fisheries management Ocean acidification is also directly related to depth, some areas may experience more chemical change and be less able to maintain healthy ecosystems than others.”