The new map has revealed thousands of underwater mountains and extinct volcanoes that were previously undiscovered. Researchers noted two specific finds: a ridge almost 500 miles long in the South Atlantic and another ridge as wide as Texas in the Gulf of Mexico.
Scientists used the satellites to measure differences as small as 10 centimeters in the surface of the ocean, which is how they found their newly discovered terrain below the waves. It was a tedious process, but the surface of the ocean can reveal much about the sea floor.
“You have to go through a bit of math and physics to get there, but, for example, 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. This is how we are measuring what is on the bottom.” said David Sandwell, a geophysics professor at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego. Sandwell led the study.
Despite the new mapping, scientists know very little about our deep sea floor, especially when you compare what they know about the surface of Mars. Sandwell concurs with this finding, “We have maps of Mars that have 100 to 10,000 times more resolution than maps of the deep ocean.”
As most oceanographers will tell you, they feel the deep ocean floor is like an undiscovered and unmapped planet. But until technology improves or we find someone to fund the charge, there may not be anything better within our lifetime. An in depth look would require 100 to 200 ship hours, and with 10 ships could be done over the course of approximately 10 years. It would also cost as much as a Mars mission. This means that we may have an more accurate map of the deep sea floor, but it will not come during our lifetime. Unfortunately, scientists will have to settle for the resolution they have now, because it is the best they will get for the moment.
Sandwell stated that the map, “is still pretty terrible.” But he concedes that it is better than what they have had to study previously.