Harris Peter T.

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Peter T.

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  • Article
    A three-dimensional mapping of the ocean based on environmental data
    (The Oceanography Society, 2017-03) Sayre, Roger ; Wright, Dawn J. ; Breyer, Sean P. ; Butler, Kevin A. ; Van Graafeiland, Keith ; Costello, Mark J. ; Harris, Peter T. ; Goodin, Kathleen L. ; Guinotte, John M. ; Basher, Zeenatul ; Kavanaugh, Maria T. ; Halpin, Patrick N. ; Monaco, Mark E. ; Cressie, Noel ; Aniello, Peter ; Frye, Charles E. ; Stephens, Drew
    The existence, sources, distribution, circulation, and physicochemical nature of macroscale oceanic water bodies have long been a focus of oceanographic inquiry. Building on that work, this paper describes an objectively derived and globally comprehensive set of 37 distinct volumetric region units, called ecological marine units (EMUs). They are constructed on a regularly spaced ocean point-mesh grid, from sea surface to seafloor, and attributed with data from the 2013 World Ocean Atlas version 2. The point attribute data are the means of the decadal averages from a 57-year climatology of six physical and chemical environment parameters (temperature, salinity, dissolved oxygen, nitrate, phosphate, and silicate). The database includes over 52 million points that depict the global ocean in x, y, and z dimensions. The point data were statistically clustered to define the 37 EMUs, which represent physically and chemically distinct water volumes based on spatial variation in the six marine environmental characteristics used. The aspatial clustering to produce the 37 EMUs did not include point location or depth as a determinant, yet strong geographic and vertical separation was observed. Twenty-two of the 37 EMUs are globally or regionally extensive, and account for 99% of the ocean volume, while the remaining 15 are smaller and shallower, and occur around coastal features. We assessed the vertical distribution of EMUs in the water column and placed them into classical depth zones representing epipelagic (0 m to 200 m), mesopelagic (200 m to 1,000 m), bathypelagic (1,000 m to 4,000 m) and abyssopelagic (>4,000 m) layers. The mapping and characterization of the EMUs represent a new spatial framework for organizing and understanding the physical, chemical, and ultimately biological properties and processes of oceanic water bodies. The EMUs are an initial objective partitioning of the ocean using long-term historical average data, and could be extended in the future by adding new classification variables and by introducing functionality to develop time-specific EMU distribution maps. The EMUs are an open-access resource, and as both a standardized geographic framework and a baseline physicochemical characterization of the oceanic environment, they are intended to be useful for disturbance assessments, ecosystem accounting exercises, conservation priority setting, and marine protected area network design, along with other research and management applications.
  • Article
    Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 search data reveal geomorphology and seafloor processes in the remote southeast Indian Ocean
    (Elsevier, 2017-11-08) Picard, Kim ; Brooke, Brendan P. ; Harris, Peter T. ; Siwabessy, Paulus J. W. ; Coffin, Millard F. ; Tran, Maggie ; Spinoccia, Michele ; Weales, Jonathan ; Macmillan-Lawler, Miles ; Sullivan, Jonah
    A high-resolution multibeam echosounder (MBES) dataset covering over 279,000 km2 was acquired in the southeastern Indian Ocean to assist the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 (MH370) that disappeared on 8 March 2014. The data provided an essential geospatial framework for the search and is the first large-scale coverage of MBES data in this region. Here we report on geomorphic analyses of the new MBES data, including a comparison with the Global Seafloor Geomorphic Features Map (GSFM) that is based on coarser resolution satellite altimetry data, and the insights the new data provide into geological processes that have formed and are currently shaping this remote deepsea area. Our comparison between the new MBES bathymetric model and the latest global topographic/bathymetric model (SRTM15_plus) reveals that 62% of the satellite-derived data points for the study area are comparable with MBES measurements within the estimated vertical uncertainty of the SRTM15_plus model (± 100 m). However, > 38% of the SRTM15_plus depth estimates disagree with the MBES data by > 100 m, in places by up to 1900 m. The new MBES data show that abyssal plains and basins in the study area are significantly more rugged than their representation in the GSFM, with a 20% increase in the extent of hills and mountains. The new model also reveals four times more seamounts than presented in the GSFM, suggesting more of these features than previously estimated for the broader region. This is important considering the ecological significance of high-relief structures on the seabed, such as hosting high levels of biodiversity. Analyses of the new data also enabled sea knolls, fans, valleys, canyons, troughs, and holes to be identified, doubling the number of discrete features mapped. Importantly, mapping the study area using MBES data improves our understanding of the geological evolution of the region and reveals a range of modern sedimentary processes. For example, a large series of ridges extending over approximately 20% of the mapped area, in places capped by sea knolls, highlight the preserved seafloor spreading fabric and provide valuable insights into Southeast Indian Ridge seafloor spreading processes, especially volcanism. Rifting is also recorded along the Broken Ridge – Diamantina Escarpment, with rift blocks and well-bedded sedimentary bedrock outcrops discernible down to 2400 m water depth. Modern ocean floor sedimentary processes are documented by sediment mass transport features, especially along the northern margin of Broken Ridge, and in pockmarks (the finest-scale features mapped), which are numerous south of Diamantina Trench and appear to record gas and/or fluid discharge from underlying marine sediments. The new MBES data highlight the complexity of the search area and serve to demonstrate how little we know about the vast areas of the ocean that have not been mapped with MBES. The availability of high-resolution and accurate maps of the ocean floor can clearly provide new insights into the Earth's geological evolution, modern ocean floor processes, and the location of sites that are likely to have relatively high biodiversity.