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 2020 release of the GEBCO grid, it is estimated that only 19% of seafloor has been mapped. In the image below, areas shown in blue are based on measured data or pre-generated grids and the areas in black are based on interpolation.

Areas based on measured data in the GEBCO grid are shown in blue

Find out more about how we are working on mapping 100% of the seafloor and how to get involved.

•             How are we defining what has been mapped?

•             What progress are we making?

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

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_2020, this had increased to 19%.

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

Percentage increase in the coverage of the seafloor mapped in the GEBCO grid from 2018 to 2020


Percentage of the seafloor mapped in the GEBCO_2020 Grid for the Seabed 2030-defined grid intervals

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.