USGS Maps California Seafloor In Unprecedented Detail
Peter Suciu for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
While California offers an impressive shoreline, new research has been able to look beyond just the surface and has been used to reveal the hidden seafloor in unprecedented detail.
Three new products in an ongoing series were released last week by the US Geological Survey (USGS), and include a map set for the area offshore of Carpinteria, a catalog of data layers for geographic information systems and even a collection of videos and photos of the seafloor along the entire Golden State.
This data is available now as part of the California Seafloor Mapping Program from the Pacific Coastal & Marine Science Center. These map sheets display seafloor morphology and character and further identify potential marine habitats. The maps also illustrate both surficial seafloor geology and shallow subsurface geology.
These three new USGS products were released on August 9, 2013. The CSMP is a cooperative program to create a comprehensive coastal/marine geologic and habitat base map series for all of California’s State waters.
The CSMP was originally developed to support the design and monitoring of marine reserves, through the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA), but the accurate statewide mapping of the seafloor will also be used to improve climate change and ocean circulation models, and help evaluate the potential for ocean energy. Moreover, it will be used to improve the understanding of the ecosystem dynamics, identify submerged faults and improve the understanding of tsunami potential.
It will further help improve the understanding of sediment transport and sand delivery, and could be used to enable more effective regulation of offshore development, while helping improve maritime safety.
The USGS is just one key partner in the CSMP, which has been a historically ambitious collaboration between state and federal agencies, academia, as well as the private sector.
“A program of this vast scope can’t be accomplished by any one organization. By working with other government agencies, universities, and private industry the USGS could fully leverage all its resources,” said USGS Pacific Region Director Mark Sogge in a statement. “Each organization brings to the table a unique and complementary set of resources, skills, and know-how.”
The programs include the USGS California Seafloor Mapping Program Map Series, the USGS California Seafloor Mapping Program Data Catalog and the USGS California Seafloor Mapping Program Video & Photo Portal.
These include three map sets that were created through the collection, integration, interpretation, and visualization of swath sonar data, acoustic backscatter, seafloor video, seafloor photography, high-resolution seismic-reflection profiles, and bottom-sediment sampling data. The Offshore of Carpinteria map area lies within the central Santa Barbara Channel region of the Southern California Bight.
An additional 14 other map sets are being formatted for publication; the full California State Waters Map Series will comprise 83 such seafloor maps that span the state’s entire coast.
The data catalog further includes large geospatial digital files including bathymetry, acoustic backscatter, offshore geology and geomorphology, faults, folds, potential marine habitats, seafloor character, sediment thickness, as well as visual observations of bottom habitat from video. This catalog (USGS Data Series 781) provides all GIS data layers with the map sets published by the California Seafloor Mapping Program.
The Video and Photo Portal now provides video and photographs of seafloor segments off California, from the US-Mexico border to the Oregon State line. The images presented in this micro-site were taken by video and still cameras that were towed approximately three feet above the seafloor. More than 340 miles of trackline video and 87,000 photographs have been taken to date.
Part of the USGS’s goal of this project is to ensure that the coastline is protected for years to come.
“The Ocean Protection Council recognized early on that seafloor habitats and geology were a fundamental data gap in ocean management,” added California’s Secretary for Natural Resources and Ocean Protection Council Chair John Laird. “After an impressive effort by many partners to collect and interpret the data, the maps being produced now are providing pioneering science that’s changing the way we manage our oceans.”
Image Below: Map showing thickness of bottom sediment in the Santa Barbara Channel offshore Carpinteria, Calif. Excerpt from USGS map SIM 3261, Sheet 9, inset Map B. Credit: USGS