How Deep, and How Important, are the Oceans? - 27/03/2019


Oceans cover 71% of the surface of our planet and yet 95% of the ocean floor remains unmapped in detail. This in itself may not seem to be very important but when we realize that 40% of the world's population live within 100km of the coast and that the planet is threatened with sea rise due to climate change which could affect up to 10% of the world's population, and from pollution from man-made materials, it becomes very important.

Oceans feature in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) because of this. So, it is appropriate that hydrographic survey is the theme of this issue of GW. We look at two key issues which are topical: unmanned underwater vehicles and charting. The former ties in with our last issue dealing with artificial intelligence and as Gordon Johnston points out in his column, we are seeing things that were unimaginable 30-40 years ago.

Sustainable Development Goal 14 refers directly to oceans and calls for conservation and sustainable use of the oceans, seas and marine resources, but the oceans are important in many other SDGs, for example those relating to health, sustainable cities, energy, climate and hunger.

The oceans are another area where Earth observation has had an immense impact. Many of the global maps with which we are familiar come from satellite observations. NASA lists 15 sets of measurements relating to the oceans including bathymetry, seafloor topography, coastal process, marine geophysics, ocean temperature, waves, wind salinity as well as sea ice and sea surface topography; these would not otherwise have been available, and our knowledge of climate change would have been much poorer.

On the theme of Earth observation, Ren Capes's article on InSAR emphasizes the high precision possible from space and the continuous monitoring that is possible. However, he also points out that clever new techniques are not a universal panacea and that it takes time, money and persistence to integrate new technology into workflows.

On more mundane topics, but no less important to individuals, the article by Tom Allan and Tom Pugh illustrates the importance of interaction between universities/colleges and employers. The University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne's professional awareness fair is an excellent example of how an all-round geomatics education should include experience of what goes on in surveying companies and give students a chance to experience this in order for them to make informed decisions about their careers.

It is with great sadness that we report the death of Walter Smith at the age of 98. Walter has not been active for many years so will not be known to the younger generation, but his influence on the practice of surveying was immense and his professionalism and humanity has touched many in our discipline. His obituary also reminds us of the time that the military had a significant role to play in national mapping, and our report on the DGI conference indicates that this influence is not completely over.

Richard Groom has been technical editor of GW for many years and his entertaining reports on conferences have featured in a good number of issues. It is with regret that he is now leaving the magazine to concentrate more on his day job. Richard has given enormous support and his contributions will be greatly missed. We will be happy to hear from anybody who would like to contribute to GW by reporting on conferences and meetings.

This article was published in Geomatics World March/April 2019

Last updated: 20/06/2019