Philosophical Society of Washington

The Ocean Floor

What We Don't Know and Why It Matters

Walter H. F. Smith
NOAA Laboratory for Satellite Altimetry

2190th Meeting Abstract
Friday, March 25, 2005 at 8:15 PM


The recent collision of the USS San Francisco with an uncharted seamount reminds us that only a few percent of the ocean floor has been thoroughly mapped. Better charting and mapping is needed for navigation, to assess tsunami hazards, and to understand the ocean's role in climate change. This talk will review the state of knowledge of global ocean floor topography by conventional and space-based techniques, and show what can be gained from a new low-cost space mission. Additional information about “Bathymetry from Space” may be found at Oceanography Magazine, Vol. 17, No. 1

Walter H. F. Smith

About the Author:

Walter H. F. Smith is a Geophysicist in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Laboratory for Satellite Altimetry and chairman of the scientific and technical sub-committee of GEBCO, the international and intergovernmental committee for the General Bathymetric Charts of the Oceans. Smith earned a B. Sc. at the University of Southern California, M.A., M. Phil., and Ph. D. degrees at Columbia University, and was a post-doctoral fellow at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography before joining NOAA. He has published research on ocean floor topography, the Earth's gravity field, the thermal history of the Earth, and the lubrication of plate tectonics, and is the co-developer of free software for data analysis and mapping: The Generic Mapping Tools He is also a husband and father, sings professionally, and enjoys cooking and sailing.

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