Mapping progress

Seabed 2030’s aim is to map the global seafloor by 2030. If you look at global terrain models, it appears that this has already been done. However, large areas of the seafloor in these models are based on interpolation using a variety of methods. For the 2021 release of the GEBCO grid, it is estimated that 20.6% of seafloor has been mapped, compared with 19% in 2020. In the image below, areas shown in blue are based on measured data and the areas in black are based on interpolation.

Areas based on measured data within the GEBCO_2021 Grid are shown in blue

Use the comparison tool setup by the Seabed 2030 Atlantic and Indian Ocean Regional Center to see the difference in the coverage of 'areas mapped' between the GEBCO_2020 and GEBCO_2021 grids.

The BathyGlobe tool at the Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping's (CCOM) web site shows those areas of the ocean that have been accurately mapped using the technology of multibeam echo-sounders.

How are we defining what has been mapped?

To reach our goal of 100% of the World Ocean mapped by year 2030 we must define what we mean by ‘mapped’. While satellite-derived bathymetry is capable of mapping undersea features in the order of several kilometres or more in spatial extent, we recognized that a range of applications need bathymetric grids that resolve smaller features on the order of tens of meters in scale.

To help us quantify ‘what is mapped’ we have specified a set of target mapping resolutions, see the table below. These based on the existing global mapping capacity  and assuming that the mapping will largely be done using surface vessels and the capabilities of existing multibeam echo sounding technology.

Feasible mapping resolutions
Depth range (m) Grid cell size % of the seafloor
0 - 1,500 100m x 100m 13.7
1,500 - 3,000 200m x 200m 11
3,000 - 5,750 400m x 400m 72.6
5,750 - 11,000 800m x 800m 2.7

These target resolutions are defined as grid-cell sizes because the end product of Seabed 2030 is the global GEBCO grid.

Read more about this in our Road map and concept paper.

What progress are we making?

At the start of the project we used the coverage of data sets included in the GEBCO_2014 Grid and the above target mapping resolutions to define that 8% of the seafloor had been mapped. But it should be noted that not all data available at this time had been included in the GEBCO grid. For the latest release, GEBCO_2021, this has increased to 20.6%.

The graph below show our progress. Please note that this information is based on data sets currently in the GEBCO grid and may not represent all globally available data, we are working to identify and assimilate this data.

The graph below shows the percentage increase in the coverage of the seafloor mapped from 2018 to 2021.

Comparison of the percentage of the seafloor mapped within the GEBCO grid from 2018 to 2021

How to contribute data and help us identify priorities for future mapping

Our Regional Centers are working to identify and assimilate all existing data into their regional models for inclusion in the global GEBCO grid.

If you have data that you can contribute to the project please use our online form to tell us about this or contribute data directly to the IHO DCDB.

As there are still large gaps in the coverage of data for large areas of the seafloor. Please help us to identify priority areas for future mapping initiatives.