Seismic Imaging of Ocean Structure

Seismic Imaging of Ocean Structure

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S. Holbrook/IRIS Consortium

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During routine seismic profiling of subseafloor structure off the Grand Banks on R/V Ewing, data collected to reveal structure within the sediments was found to also resolve variations in water temperature and salinity within the ocean itself. Thermohaline fine structure is usually mapped by lowering and raising instruments that measure water properties directly, but this slow process limits the volume of ocean that can be sampled and has constrained horizontal resolution. By tuning the processing of the seismic reflection records to emphasize ocean structure, boundaries between water masses can be rapidly mapped, revealing layers as thin as 5 m with unprecedented lateral resolution. The deeper, rounded structures in this image represent kilometer-scale eddies that are thought to play a major role in mixing within the water column. Seismic reflection techniques provide an ideal complement to traditional methods of probing the ocean, offering a way to rapidly illuminate large volumes, thus providing the possibility of 3D and 4D (time-lapse) imagingof the complex oceanic structures involved in oceanic mixing and transport. (Image courtesy of S. Holbrook.)

Date Taken: February 18, 2009
Photographer / Contributor: S. Holbrook

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Seismological_Grand_Challenges, Long_Range_Science_Plan,

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