Eos, Transactions American Geophysical Union

Houston, We Have a Problem: Satellite Altimetry Skews Ocean Depths



In the decades after the space program began, several research missions produced global maps of ocean bathymetry. While these maps do an adequate job of portraying generally the seabed on a worldwide or even a regional basis, they fail to convey accurate and detailed pictures of seabed topography over more restricted areas when compared with renditions that can be obtained with multibeam sounding systems.

As more and more laypeople come into contact with seafloor altimeter data through systems such as Google MapsTM, the public erroneously is starting to believe that all of the seafloor has been mapped in fine detail. To prevent this, ocean scientists must take active roles in petitioning those who fund science research that a broad campaign to survey the ocean floor through multibeam sounding systems is as critically needed as studies from space.