How is bathymetric data used?



Accurate bathymetry is the foundation for much of ocean science and policy.

Bathymetric data, which includes information about the depths and shapes of underwater terrain, has a range of uses:

  • Nautical charts are based on data acquired during bathymetric surveys. These charts guide mariners much as road maps guide motorists, ensuring safe and efficient maritime transportation.
  • Bathymetric maps are increasingly important as scientists learn more about the effects of climate change on the environment. Bathymetric surveys can alert scientists to ongoing and potential beach erosion, sea-level rise, and subsidence (land sinking). Scientists also use bathymetric data to create hydrodynamic models.
  • Bathymetry is a key element of biological oceanography. The depth and characteristics of the seabed define the habitat for benthic (bottom-dwelling) organisms, and are fundamental parameters of marine ecosystems. Scientists use high-resolution bathymetry to help determine where fish and other sea life will feed, live, and breed.
A bathymetric image of Lake Huron. Credit: NOAA.

Compiled by Paul Johnson


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