A seismic reflection profiling section with focus on the water column
Raymond Schmitt of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (right) and Steven Holbrook of the University of Wyoming discuss seismic profiling. Photo by Tom Kleindinst, WHOI
A new application of a decades-old technique to study Earth´s interior is allowing scientists "see" the layers in the ocean, providing new insight on the structure of ocean currents, eddies and mixing processes. The findings, reported in this week´s Science by a team from the University of Wyoming and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), could be a major step forward in the ability to remotely survey the interior of the ocean.
The study reports on a new adaptation of seismic reflection profiling - sending sound unto the water and analyzing the return echoes - to create detailed pictures of eddies, internal waves, and other oceanic features that affect climate, fisheries and the spread of pollution.
Seismic profiling has been used for more than 50 years to map Earth´s interior and to explore for oil and gas deposits. This is the first application that may help scientists locate yet-undiscovered mixing sites that may improve understanding of how the ocean absorbs heat and moves it from the equator to the poles. Better understanding of ocean mixing will play a role in improving climate models, said coauthor Raymond Schmitt of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.
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