Student Seminar

The challenges of ocean mapping, how much do we really know?

Israel Lumumba, SFU Physics
Location: C9000

Friday, 04 November 2022 01:30PM PDT


Having a complete, detailed map of the ocean floor allows us to understand how we affect and are affected by the health of the world's oceans, which play a major role in regulating the earth's carbon levels and providing food for billions of people. Mapping the oceans’ floor enables us to predict tides, tsunamis and storm surges with greater accuracy. Furthermore, data collection of water depths in oceans, rivers and lakes can reveal areas of fishing activity and sources of climate change, allowing marine biologists to better understand which areas of water to protect in order to conserve marine biology. I will begin by summarizing the landscape of ocean cartography and the challenges currently being investigated, as well as the physics behind the technologies currently in use. I will detail the physics behind various processes utilized to map the seafloor including laser altimetry from satellites, LIDAR and multibeam sonar, as well as the challenges that each face. Challenges associated with bathymetry include the gravitational effect of large underwater structures on the surrounding water and in turn the reflected pulse beam as well as the environmental impact these probes have.  I will introduce initiatives that aim to have the entire ocean floor mapped through voluntary data contributions by private companies, governments and researchers as well as the technology that is responsible for the data we have today. To conclude, I will highlight the importance of ocean cartography by discussing its potential in conservation biology, modern industrial developments and more.