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Thousands of undersea volcanoes revealed in new map of ocean floor

A satellite scan of the undersea waterbed or the ocean floor has revealed thousands of hidden mountains and traces of erstwhile active volcanoes submerged for millions of years.

In a research paper published in journal “Science” on October 3 said the new twice the size of similar ocean floor mapping done 20 years ago. The mapping exercise, undertaken by Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego, shows that there are twice the number of volcanoes undersea.

Scripps Institution of Oceanography researchers have created a new map of the world’s seafloor, creating a much more vivid picture of the structures that make up the deepest, least-explored parts of the ocean. Thousands of previously uncharted mountains rising from the seafloor and new clues about the formation of the continents have emerged through the new map, which is twice as accurate as the previous version produced nearly 20 years ago.

“You might think, that’s not so much better, but instead of seeing 5,000 old volcanoes down there, now we can see 10,000,” said David Sandwell, a geophysics professor at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego, lead author. “We have maps of Mars that have 100 to 10,000 times more resolution than maps of the deep ocean,” he said.

“We combined new radar altimeter measurements from satellites CryoSat-2 and Jason-1 with existing data to construct a global marine gravity model that is two times more accurate than previous models,” said the study’s abstract. “We found an extinct spreading ridge in the Gulf of Mexico that is as wide as Texas, a major propagating rift in the South Atlantic Ocean that is almost 500 miles long, abyssal hill fabric on slow-spreading ridges, and thousands of previously uncharted seamounts,” revealed the new study.

These discoveries allow us to understand regional tectonic processes and highlight the importance of satellite-derived gravity models as one of the primary tools for the investigation of remote ocean basins.

Based on the data collected by two satellite observatories: the European Space Agency’s CryoSat-2, and the Jason-1, of NASA and the French space agency CNES, the researcher said, ” a 1.2-mile-high volcano will produce a very low amplitude bump on the ocean surface of about 10 centimeters over 12.5 miles,” explaining how his team measured the bottom of the ocean floor.

But to do a deeper sea mapping, it would require 100 to 200 ship years and if the exercise is carried out by 10 ships, it would take 10 years, said Sandwell, saying the current findings are still rudimentary compared to the aim of reaching a more accurate mapping of the oceanfloor.

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