New map to study continent formation

To better understand continent formation, scientists have created a new map of the seafloor, offering a detailed picture of the structures that make up its deepest, least-explored parts.

IANS| Updated: Oct 03, 2014, 20:30 PM IST

Washington: To better understand continent formation, scientists have created a new map of the seafloor, offering a detailed picture of the structures that make up its deepest, least-explored parts.

Thousands of uncharted mountains rising from the seafloor, called "seamounts," have emerged through the map.

The map provides a window into ocean tectonics, as the researchers have discovered that seamounts and earthquakes are often linked.

"The kinds of things you can see very clearly are the abyssal hills, the most common landform on the planet," said lead study author David Sandwell, a geophysicist at Scripps Institution of Oceanography (SIO), University of California, San Diego.

Previously unseen features include continental connections across South America and Africa, and new evidence for seafloor spreading ridges in the Gulf of Mexico.

The ridges were active 150 million years ago and are now buried by mile-thick layers of sediment.

"One of the most important uses will be to improve the estimates of seafloor depth in the 80 percent of the oceans that remain uncharted or (where the sea floor) is buried beneath thick sediment," the authors stated.

The new map was created by accessing two untapped streams of satellite data.

Combined with existing data and improved remote sensing instruments, the map gives scientists new tools to investigate ocean spreading centers and little-studied remote ocean basins.

The map was described in the journal Science.