Observing Seafloor Methane Seeps at the Edge of Hydrate Stability

WaterWord of the Day: Bathymetry

John Greene / SOI
Jun. 27 2019

The WaterWord: Bathymetry


  • Just as the land above the water has its highs and lows, so too does the land beneath the ocean’s surface. Those features are known as bathymetry.


  • Bathymetric comes from two Greek words: bathys, meaning “deep,” and metrike, meaning “to measure.”
A 3D image processed by John Greene showing a large seamount on Tamu Massif.John Greene / SOI

Use/Significance in the Earth Science Community:

  • Bathymetry is an important aspect of marine geology. Scientists seek to identify various types of features underwater, as well as to study how they formed.
  • Researchers use tools like multibeam sonar to map the seafloor.  By measuring how long an acoustic signal takes to bounce off the seafloor, scientists develop high-resolution maps of deep-sea features.

U.S. Geological Survey/Schmidt Ocean Institute Use:

  • USGS and SOI are collaborating on a research cruise off the coast of Oregon and Washington that will study methane seeps in a region known as the continental margin. During this cruise, quite a bit of bathymetric data will be collected.
  • SOI research cruises regularly collect bathymetric data, and its research vessel, the R/V Falkor, is equipped with advanced multibeam sonar systems to study the seafloor features.
  • USGS has also collected significant amounts of bathymetric data, not just along the ocean floor but also for river and lake bottoms. That data can be found here.

Next WaterWord: Benthic

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