Earth Institute Research Projects

Supporting Marine Geoscience Research with Ongoing Growth of the Global Multi-Resolution Topography Synthesis and Maintenance of GeoMapApp

Lead PI: Dr. Suzanne M. Carbotte , Vicki Ferrini

Unit Affiliation: Marine Geology & Geophysics, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (LDEO)

September 2019 - August 2022
Project Type: Research

DESCRIPTION: Knowledge of the depths and morphology of the seafloor is essential for many areas of marine science. The morphology of the seabed provides a record of the diverse geologic processes that affect the submarine environment including volcanic eruptions, faulting, submarine landslides and sediment transport from the continental margins. Detailed seabed bathymetry is also important for other areas of marine science research including evaluation of biological habitats, ocean circulation studies, and prediction of tsunami inundation, as well as for applied studies including fisheries and coastal resource management. Measurements of depth and morphology are now typically achieved through the use of modern swath multibeam echosounders (MBESs). However, the global ocean is vast, and only a small fraction (<15%) of the seafloor has been mapped with direct measurement, and the total area that can be mapped during a typical expedition is very limited. This makes preservation of and easy access to seabed mapping data of high value to the science community.

MBES data collected during research expeditions funded by the NSF are now routinely archived and accessible through public databases provided by NOAA's National Centers for Environmental Information. However, specialist processing is needed to translate the raw expedition data into formats useful for diverse scientific and resource management applications. To help meet this need, the research team has developed the Global Multi-Resolution Topography (GMRT) synthesis which is a unified compilation of spatially sparse, quality controlled gridded MBES data merged with lower resolution global-scale ocean data, high-resolution terrestrial elevation data, and a collection of gridded bathymetry datasets at resolutions of meters to hundreds of meters. GMRT is the only such global synthesis, composed of a suite of multi-resolution grids and images, which at highest resolution preserve the full resolution of the underlying data, as well as attribution and access to source data. GMRT can be accessed through a variety of tools including GeoMapApp (GMA), which is a map-based visualization application that enables users to easily visualize seafloor morphology and make custom maps, as well as to visualize and analyze many other marine data types without the need for specialist expertise.

Funding for this project supports the continued development and growth of the GMRT synthesis and maintenance of the GMA data visualization and analysis tool. The overall goals of this project are to (1) continue to build the GMRT global synthesis with the processing and integration of new quality controlled MBES coverage from expeditions of the U.S. academic fleet, (2) develop the tools and workflows to enable a distributed mode of GMRT data processing, and the efficient integration of processed MBES data generated by other mapping experts within the science community into the synthesis, (3) provide support for GMA to ensure that this tool is available for GMRT and other data visualization. Broader impacts of this project include greater ease-of-access to marine geoscience data for specialists and non-specialists alike; enhanced research productivity, obviating the need for the time-consuming data processing tasks needed to obtain usable products for scientific inquiry; and facilitating broad re-use of marine geoscience data, which enhances the return on tax-payer investments in ocean science.