Scripps, Google Team Up to Update Ocean Application

“The original version of Google Ocean was a newly developed prototype map that had high resolution but also contained thousands of blunders,” Scripps geophysicist David Sandwell said in a Feb. 7 campus press release. 

Five UCSD undergraduate students from the physics department spent the past three years identifying and correcting the blunders, according to Sandwell.
     Google researchers used updated bathymetry gathered by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Bathymetry is the underwater equivalent to topography, a process that Scripps has been using to generate global bathymetric maps since 1994. 

“You can measure bathymetry in a variety of ways,” Sandwell said. “One way would be to use a multibeam echo sounders.”

Multibeam echo sounders are a type of sonar system. Sound waves are bounced off of the sea floor, at which point data returns to the surface, which helps researchers map out the shape of the sea floor.

The update includes more accurate imaging and mapping of certain ocean areas using multibeam data. Some of the data was collected during the last three decades using Scripps research vessels such as the Washington, Melville and Revelle. 

“Those are just three ships out of the global fleet,” Sandwell said. “Globally there might be 40 ships that have contributed data — Scripps has provided a large contribution.”

According to a YouTube video released by Google on Feb. 1, Google used satellite data for the update from both U.S. and European spacecrafts. Google also used shipboard sounding data from surveys carried out by over 40 different countries.According to the press release, UCSD undergraduate physics student Alexis Shakas processed all the U.S. multibeam data and then worked with Google researchers in order to update the bathymetric maps.
     Sandwell said that the update matches the sea floor map to the map that is used in the research community, giving researchers a more useful tool for planning expeditions to uncharted areas. 

A grid-like pattern on Google Ocean that appeared off of the north coast of Africa was mistakenly believed to be Atlantis. The updated program has since corrected this error.  

NOAA now confirms that the grid-like feature was caused by Google using numerous data sets that can cause an overlap of information. The updated Google Ocean has erased this feature from the ocean floor. According to the Feb. 7 UCSD press release, the next update will come later this year with the introduction of a new gravity model that has twice the accuracy of previous models.

Readers can contact Javier Armstrong at [email protected]


More to Discover
Donate to The UCSD Guardian
$2320
$500
Contributed
Our Goal

Your donation will support the student journalists at University of California, San Diego. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment, keep printing our papers, and cover our annual website hosting costs.

Donate to The UCSD Guardian
$2320
$500
Contributed
Our Goal