6 Jan

Map of the Week: Draining the World’s Oceans to Visualize Earth’s Surface

By Samantha Hinton

Three-fifths of the Earth’s surface is located beneath the ocean, hiding a detailed and intriguing topographical surface, which for a long time was believed to be less understood than the Moon. The map animation was created by Planetary Researcher James O’Donoghue of Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and of National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). 

The animation simulates the gradual draining of Earth’s seas to reveal the entirety of its surface. At 140 meters, the continental shelves begin to make an appearance, except where the shelves are much deeper like in the Arctic and Antarctic areas. By 200 to 300 meters, the mid-ocean ridges start showing, and by 600 meters, a majority of the ocean is drained. Deep ocean trenches are the last to drain–the deepest known point is the Mariana Trench at a depth of 10,911 meters.

The astounding depth and tremendous pressure of the oceans have made it very difficult to investigate. With the advancement of satellite and remote sensing technology, more and more discoveries continue to be made. This animation illustrates just how little we know about what’s beneath the surface. 

Learn more about this animation at the Visual Capitalist and NASA