Bathymetry from space : rationale and requirements for a new, high-resolution altimetric mission

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Sandwell, David T.
Smith, Walter H. F.
Gille, Sarah T.
Kappel, Ellen
Jayne, Steven R.
Soofi, Khalid
Coakley, Bernard
Geli, Louis
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Bathymétrie spatiale : arguments en faveur d'une nouvelle mission altimétrique "haute résolution"
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Bathymetry is foundational data, providing basic infrastructure for scientific, economic, educational, managerial, and political work. Applications as diverse as tsunami hazard assessment, communications cable and pipeline route planning, resource exploration, habitat management, and territorial claims under the Law of the Sea all require reliable bathymetric maps to be available on demand. Fundamental Earth science questions, such as what controls seafloor shape and how seafloor shape influences global climate, also cannot be answered without bathymetric maps having globally uniform detail. Current bathymetric charts are inadequate for many of these applications because only a small fraction of the seafloor has been surveyed. Modern multibeam echosounders provide the best resolution, but it would take more than 200 ship-years and billions of dollars to complete the job. The seafloor topography can be charted globally, in five years, and at a cost under $100M. A radar altimeter mounted on an orbiting spacecraft can measure slight variations in ocean surface height, which reflect variations in the pull of gravity caused by seafloor topography. A new satellite altimeter mission, optimized to map the deep ocean bathymetry and gravity field, will provide a global map of the world's deep oceans at a resolution of 6-9 km. This resolution threshold is critical for a large number of basic science and practical applications, including: • Determining the effects of bathymetry and seafloor roughness on ocean circulation, mixing, climate, and biological communities, habitats, and mobility. • Understanding the geologic processes responsible for ocean floor features unexplained by simple plate tectonics, such as abyssal hills, seamounts, microplates, and propagating rifts. • Improving tsunami hazard forecast accuracy by mapping the deep ocean topography that steers tsunami wave energy. • Mapping the marine gravity field to improve inertial navigation and provide homogeneous coverage of continental margins. • Providing bathymetric maps for numerous other practical applications, including reconnaissance for submarine cable and pipeline routes, improving tide models, and assessing potential territorial claims to the seabed under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
Author Posting. © Elsevier B.V., 2006. This is the author's version of the work. It is posted here by permission of Elsevier B.V. for personal use, not for redistribution. The definitive version was published in Comptes Rendus Geosciences 338 (2006): 1049-1062, doi:10.1016/j.crte.2006.05.014.
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