Psychedelic Map Gives Face to Uncharted Seafloor

posted: 01/13/16
by: Danny Clemens
Indian Ocean gravitational field
NASA Earth Observatory maps by Joshua Stevens, using data from Sandwell, D. et al. (2014)

Here's the ocean like you've never seen it before: colored according to Earth's gravity field.

In the kaleidoscopic map, which was produced primarily by NOAA's Walter Smith and the Scripps Institution for Oceanography's David Sandwell utilizing NASA and ESA data, different hues represent the varying strength of gravity around the world.

The redder the color, the stronger the gravitational pull is in comparison with the global average, a condition commonly found near underwater ridges the edges of tectonic plates. Accordingly, bluer areas (typically deep trenches) have lower gravity.

"Sandwell and his team derived the shape of the seafloor and its gravity field from altimetry measurements of the height of the sea surface; mountains and other seafloor features have a lot of mass, so they exert a gravitational pull on the water above pulling more water toward their center of mass," NASA explains on its website.

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The agency adds that the mapping project, which could be useful to underwater navigation, earthquake research and natural resource scouting, has given a face to parts of the seafloor that were previously uncharted.

In addition to being published in the journal Science, Smith and Sandwell's mapping research has also been incorporated into Google Earth.


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