U.S. Releases New Views of Earth's Ocean Floor
Washington - New software has made the U.S. government's sea floor maps and other data on the world's coasts, continental shelves and deep ocean available for easy viewing online.
Anyone with Internet access can explore undersea features and obtain detailed depictions of the sea floor and coasts, including deep canyons, ripples, landslides and likely fish habitat.
The new online data viewer compiles sea floor data from the near shore to the deep blue, including the latest high-resolution bathymetric (sea bottom) data collected by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
"NOAA's ocean-bottom data are critical to so many mission requirements, including coastal safety and resiliency, navigation, healthy oceans and more. They are also just plain beautiful," said Susan McLean of NOAA's National Geophysical Data Center.
The data center's sea floor data have long been free and open to the public in the original science formatting, but that often required the use of specialized software to convert the data into maps and other products.
"For serious scientists, the new viewer allows an important preview capability that will help speed data access and analysis. But its real power is exposing a new audience to NOAA data," said Dan Price, bathymetric program manager at the data center. "I showed the new viewer to my neighbors, and they were blown away by the detail and features revealed."
The new interface makes exploration easy and intuitive, using a "color-shaded relief" technique to depict bathymetric data and derived maps and models. For example, a user can zoom into Delgada Canyon, one of a series of deep canyons off the Northern California coast. The sea floor descends steeply from shallow yellows into dark blues and purples.
"These are critical data for modeling coastal flooding, from tsunami to hurricane storm surge," said Kelly Carignan, a digital elevation modeler at the data center.
Not all NOAA sea floor data are accessible yet through the new viewer; some datasets still require specialized software for generating maps. To learn more and access the viewer, visit http://maps.ngdc.noaa.gov/viewers/bathymetry.
(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State.)