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Sea-Floor Sunday #39: Improved bathymetry data in Google Earth!

January 18, 2009

A reader* tipped me to the release of higher-resolution bathymetry coverage now in Google Earth.

This is pretty cool … although you can’t explore in 3D like on land just yet, this is a great step forward towards the Google Earth I dream about. Check out this post on the Google Earth Blog and below are some snapshots of the new data.

The resolution is certainly higher than the previous data but still not quite as good as what you can find with other tools (e.g., GeoMapApp). But what it lacks in resolution it makes up for in beauty. The rendering of the complex texture of the sea floor at large scales (10s-100s of km) is gorgeous. Check it out.


credit: GoogleEarth


credit: GoogleEarth


credit: GoogleEarth


credit: GoogleEarth


credit: GoogleEarth

One of the image sources listed at the bottom of the images is GEBCO, which I’ve blogged about before.

My guess is that they’ll start adding high-resolution bathy surveys over time resulting in a similar patchwork that we now see for the onshore areas. There are ways to do this now by doing overlays, but it’ll be nice if it is as seamless as possible.


* none other than the guy with his finger on the pulse of web-based and photographic technology available to geologists

Check out all Sea-Floor Sunday images here.


10 Comments leave one →
  1. January 18, 2009 6:14 am

    That does make for some nice (and easy to get) pictures of the sea floor!

  2. January 18, 2009 6:47 am

    This is great! Even just the imagery is going to make Google Earth even more useful to get students thinking about tectonics…

  3. January 18, 2009 9:09 am

    Yeah, I agree … getting higher-res images for research or other specific reasons can be done with other tools, but this is a great step forward in a all-in-one global mapping tool.

  4. mesitto permalink
    January 19, 2009 9:17 pm

    Thanks for tipping me off to this! It will help in some ways for my regional tectonics class. For instance, in studying the late Archean and Proterozoic it helped me visualize the Banda arc as a modern day analog for the possible arc associated with the Cheyenne Suture in southern Wyoming (Jessup et al., 2005).

  5. Kiwi Kim permalink
    January 21, 2009 1:28 pm

    Great to see New Zealand in that 1st shot :-)

    The detail is good in some areas but not so great in others. I can however see the rough outline of my favorate canyon systems on the West Coast of the South Island, New Zealand.

    Below is the address of a swath bathymery image of the area prepared by New Zealands National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA), Brian, I thought you might like this one :-)

  6. January 22, 2009 10:22 am

    It is good to see Google Earth moving into the ocean. The deep ocean data come from a project called SRTM30_PLUS. Here is the web address.
    The site includes a place to comment on the data quality; negative comments are the most valuable. These comments will help us to improve the bathymetry for the next version. Actually Google is one version behind since they have V4.0 and the latest version published in September is V5.0 so a number of things have been fixed.

    To confirm the source of this grid fly to the location N0 E94.75 to observe the initials DTS/SIO.

    David T. Sandwell
    Scripps Institution of Oceanography

  7. January 22, 2009 6:25 pm

    Kiwi Kim … that is a nice image, very cool.

    David … I’m traveling at the moment, but thanks for the link, I’m definitely going to check it out.

  8. Ali permalink
    May 12, 2009 1:28 am

    How i get information about the resolution of google earth datah

  9. May 12, 2009 10:56 am

    Overlays of updated Google Earth bathymetry can be displayed using the following kmz-file. These overlays show two things not available in the original Google presentation: 1) depth contours are shown at 500 m intervals with a more prominent contour at 2000 m depth; 2) the locations of the raw ship soundings are shown so the user can discriminate measured depth from predicted depth. Finally the comments in the kmz-file provide links to the full documentation for this grid. If this information was available from Google, the Atlantis fiasco may never have occurred.

    Note that this overlay has additional data as well as a number of blunders fixed.

    David T. Sandwell
    Scripps Institution of Oceanography

    (This research is funded by the National Science Foundation and NASA.)


  1. Google Earth - improved ocean floor « The GeoChristian

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