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Exploring Ocean Tectonics from Space

This story is tracking the media coverage of the paper by Sandwell et al, "New global marine gravity model from CryoSat-2 and Jason-1 reveals buried tectonic structure" ( For more information visit


  1. From the Scripps Institution of Oceanography press release: “The team has developed and proved a powerful new tool for high-resolution exploration of regional seafloor structure and geophysical processes,” says Don Rice, program director in the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Division of Ocean Sciences. “This capability will allow us to revisit unsolved questions and to pinpoint where to focus future exploratory work.”
  2. From the Scripps Institution of Oceanography press release: “The use of satellite altimeter data and Sandwell’s improved data processing technique provides improved estimates of marine gravity and bathymetry world-wide, including in remote areas,” said Joan Cleveland, Office of Naval Research (ONR) deputy director, Ocean Sensing and Systems Division. “Accurate bathymetry and identifying the location of seamounts are important to safe navigation for the U.S. Navy.”
  3. From Science magazine news: The authors “have dramatically improved the signal-to-noise ratio in their marine gravity grid, allowing very subtle features to be resolved,” says geophysicist Paul Wessel, a geophysicist at the University of Hawaii, M­anoa, who was not involved in the study. “This work brings home the importance of collecting new data, as well as applying expert processing to older data—squeezing out more information than was thought possible.”
  4. From Nature News: Geologists around the world can use the map to reconstruct how oceanic crustal plates shifted, says Joanne Whittaker, a marine geoscientist at the University of Tasmania in Hobart, Australia. She studies the poorly mapped parts of the Indian and Southern Oceans between Antarctica and Australia, and relies on gravity maps to help plan her research voyages. Whittaker has an upcoming cruise aboard Australia’s new research vessel, Investigator, to study the underwater Gulden Draak Knoll, which may be a fragment of an ancient continent. Thanks to the gravity data, she says, “we will be able to plan our voyage with more confidence, and we may even try to adjust the voyage somewhat based on all the new information.”
  5. From BBC News: "CryoSat's orbit and payload were designed to meet its primary ice mission goals, and extending its coverage to the ocean was on a 'let's see what we get' basis," said principal investigator Duncan Wingham. "As it has turned out, we now have a marvellous new view of the ocean floor."