Though humankind relies heavily on oceans for food, climate and weather management, and global trade, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reports more than 95 percent of the world’s oceans remain unexplored.

To increase human understanding of the realm’s conditions and structure, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) partnered with Esri, NOAA, and others to produce first-of-their-kind, interactive 3D maps of the entirety of the world’s oceans. Called Ecological Marine Units (EMU), these maps group the world’s oceans into 37 distinct ecosystems. Of these, 22 are global in scope and account for 99 percent of the world’s ocean volume. The remaining 15 are smaller, more shallow, and primarily coastal.

Resulting physical and chemical data is available on a web-app called Ecological Marine Unit Explorer. Shades of pink indicate warmer waters, while blue indicates cold.

Clicking anywhere on the map allows users to view point-specific information such as temperature and depth profiles, salinity, dissolved oxygen, nitrate, phosphate, silicate, and more. According to USGS, these values were determined using more than 52 million data points from NOAA’s World Ocean Atlas.

As an open-access resource, EMUs are intended for use in marine conservation, disturbance assessments, spatial planning, and other research efforts.

In the future, USGS hopes to produce similar maps showing ocean ecosystems and attributes throughout the course of seasons, years, and decades in order to enable the study of environmental changes over time.

Photo Credit: NOAA

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Posted by Andrew Foerch