Trump plan to push seafloor mapping wins warm reception

Science | AAAS | 11/22/2019 | Staff
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The coastal waters of the United States cover an area dwarfing the nation itself. Yet more than half of that ocean floor is a blank—unmapped by all but low-resolution satellite imagery.

Now, the White House has announced a new push to examine these 11.6 million square kilometers of undersea territory. President Donald Trump this week signed a memorandum ordering federal officials to draft a new strategy that would accelerate federal efforts to map and explore these reaches.

November - Declaration - Time - Interest - World

The 19 November declaration comes at a time of growing interest in mapping the world’s ocean floors. A consortium of scientists from around the world is working to create a complete, detailed picture of the global seabed by 2030. Nations are probing the ocean floor in search of valuable minerals, oil, and gas. In 2021, the United Nations will launch what it’s calling the decade of ocean science.

The new federal initiative could help coordinate what has been a hodgepodge of mapping by industry, government, and academic researchers, says Vicki Ferrini, a marine geophysicist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in Palisades, New York. “Having an overarching national coordinated strategy is, I think, going to be a game changer,” says Ferrini, who is part of the international Seabed 2030 campaign. That campaign is led by the Tokyo-based Nippon Foundation and the nonprofit General Bathymetric Chart of the Oceans in London.

Memo - White - House - Ocean - Policy

The new presidential memo directs the White House’s Ocean Policy Committee to, within 6 months, draft a strategy to map U.S. territorial waters, which stretch 320 kilometers from the coast. Today, roughly 40% of that area is charted, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). It puts special emphasis on coastal waters around Alaska, where mapping is particularly sparse, and pressures including coastal erosion, climate change, and offshore oil exploration are converging.

Detailed seafloor maps are...
(Excerpt) Read more at: Science | AAAS
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