Publications

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2015
O'Connor, JM, Hoernle K, Muller RD, Morgan JP, Butterworth NP, Hau F, Sandwell DT, Jokat W, Wijbrans JR, Stoffers P.  2015.  Deformation-related volcanism in the Pacific Ocean linked to the Hawaiian-Emperor bend. Nature Geoscience. 8:393-397.   10.1038/ngeo2416   AbstractWebsite

Ocean islands, seamounts and volcanic ridges are thought to form above mantle plumes. Yet, this mechanism cannot explain many volcanic features on the Pacific Ocean floor(1) and some might instead be caused by cracks in the oceanic crust linked to the reorganization of plate motions(1-3). A distinctive bend in the Hawaiian-Emperor volcanic chain has been linked to changes in the direction of motion of the Pacific Plate(4,5), movement of the Hawaiian plume(6-8), or a combination of both(9). However, these links are uncertain because there is no independent record that precisely dates tectonic events that affected the Pacific Plate. Here we analyse the geochemical characteristics of lava samples collected from the Musicians Ridges, lines of volcanic seamounts formed close to the Hawaiian-Emperor bend. We find that the geochemical signature of these lavas is unlike typical ocean island basalts and instead resembles mid-ocean ridge basalts. We infer that the seamounts are unrelated to mantle plume activity and instead formed in an extensional setting, due to deformation of the Pacific Plate. Ar-40/Ar-39 dating reveals that the Musicians Ridges formed during two time windows that bracket the time of formation of the Hawaiian-Emperor bend, 53-52 and 48-47 million years ago. We conclude that the Hawaiian-Emperor bend was formed by plate-mantle reorganization, potentially triggered by a series of subduction events at the Pacific Plate margins.

2006
Sandwell, DT, Smith WHF, Gille S, Kappel E, Jayne S, Soofi K, Coakley B, Geli L.  2006.  Bathymetry from space: Rationale and requirements for a new, high-resolution altimetric mission. Comptes Rendus Geoscience. 338:1049-1062.   10.1016/j.crte.2006.05.014   AbstractWebsite

Bathymetry is foundational data, providing basic infrastructure for scientific, economic, educational, managerial, and political work. Applications as diverse as tsunami hazard assessment, communications cable and pipeline route planning, resource exploration, habitat management, and territorial claims under the Law of the Sea all require reliable bathymetric maps to be available on demand. Fundamental Earth science questions, such as what controls seafloor shape and how seafloor shape influences global climate, also cannot be answered without bathymetric maps having globally uniform detail. Current bathymetric, charts are inadequate for many of these applications because only a small fraction of the seafloor has been surveyed. Modern multibeam echosounders provide the best resolution, but it would take more than 200 ship-years and billions of dollars to complete the job. The seafloor topography can be charted globally, in five years, and at a cost under $100M. A radar altimeter mounted on an orbiting spacecraft can measure slight variations in ocean surface height, which reflect variations in the pull of gravity caused by seafloor topography. A new satellite altimeter mission, optimized to map the deep ocean bathymetry and gravity field, will provide a global map of the world's deep oceans at a resolution of 6-9 kin. This resolution threshold is critical for a large number of basic science and practical applications, including: determining the effects of bathymetry and seafloor roughness on ocean circulation, mixing, climate, and biological communities, habitats, and mobility; understanding the geologic processes responsible for ocean floor features unexplained by simple plate tectonics, such as abyssal hills, seamounts, microplates, and propagating rifts;. improving tsunami hazard forecast accuracy by mapping the deep-ocean topography that steers tsunami wave energy; mapping the marine gravity field to improve inertial navigation and provide homogeneous coverage of continental margins; providing bathymetric maps for numerous other practical applications, including reconnaissance for submarine cable and pipeline routes, improving tide models, and assessing potential territorial claims to the seabed under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. Because ocean bathymetry is a fundamental measurement of our planet, there is a broad spectrum of interest from government, the research community, industry, and the general public. Mission requirements. The resolution of the altimetry technique is limited by physical law, not instrument capability. Everything that can be mapped from space can be achieved now, and there is no gain in waiting for technological advances. Mission requirements for Bathymetry from Space are much less stringent and less costly than typical physical oceanography missions. Long-term sea-surface height accuracy is not needed; the fundamental measurement is the slope of the ocean surface to an accuracy of similar to 1 prad (1 mm km(-1)). The main mission requirements are: improved range precision (a factor of two or more improvement in altimeter range precision with respect to current altimeters is needed to reduce the noise due to ocean waves); - fine cross-track spacing and long mission duration (a ground track spacing of 6 km or less is required. A six-year mission would reduce the error by another factor of two); moderate inclination (existing satellite altimeters have relatively high orbital inclinations, thus their resolution of east-west components of ocean slope is poor at low latitudes. The new mission should have an orbital inclination close to 60 degrees or 120 degrees so as to resolve north-south and east-west components almost equally while still covering nearly all the world's ocean area); near-shore tracking (for applications near coastlines, the ability of the instrument to track the ocean surface close to shore, and acquire the surface soon after leaving land, is desirable).

1997
Smith, WHF, Sandwell DT.  1997.  Global sea floor topography from satellite altimetry and ship depth soundings. Science. 277:1956-1962.   10.1126/science.277.5334.1956   AbstractWebsite

A digital bathymetric map of the oceans with a horizontal resolution of 1 to 12 kilometers was derived by combining available depth soundings with high-resolution marine gravity information from the Geosat and ERS-1 spacecraft. Previous global bathymetric maps lacked features such as the 1600-kilometer-long Foundation Seamounts chain in the South Pacific. This map shows relations among the distributions of depth, sea floor area, and sea floor age that do not fit the predictions of deterministic models of subsidence due to lithosphere cooling but may be explained by a stochastic model in which randomly distributed reheating events warm the lithosphere and raise the ocean floor.

1992
Sandwell, DT.  1992.  Antarctic Marine Gravity-Field from High-Density Satellite Altimetry. Geophysical Journal International. 109:437-448.   10.1111/j.1365-246X.1992.tb00106.x   AbstractWebsite

Closely spaced satellite altimeter profiles (< 5 km) collected during the Geosat Geodetic Mission (Geosat/GM), and those planned for the extended ERS-1 mission, are easily converted to grids of vertical gravity gradient and gravity anomaly. As profile spacing decreases, it becomes increasingly difficult to perform a crossover adjustment on the original geoid height profiles without introducing large cross-track gradients. If one is only interested in the horizontal and vertical derivatives of the gravitational potential, however, adjustment of the profile is unnecessary. The long-wavelength radial orbit error is suppressed well below the noise level of the altimeter by simply taking the along-track derivative of each profile. Ascending and descending slope profiles are then interpolated onto separate uniform grids. These two grids are summed and differenced to form comparable grids of east and north vertical deflection. Using Laplace's equation, the vertical gravity gradient is calculated directly from the vertical deflection grids. Fourier analysis is required to construct gravity anomalies from the two vertical deflection grids. These techniques are applied to high-density (approximately 2 km profile spacing) Geosat/GM profiles in Antarctic waters (60-degrees-S to 72-degrees-S). Gridding and interpolation are performed using the method of projection onto convex sets where the smoothness criteria corresponds to upward continuation through 4 km of ocean. The resultant gravity grids have resolution and accuracy comparable to shipboard gravity profiles. After adjustment of a DC shift in the shipboard gravity profiles (approximately 5 mGal) the rms difference between the ship and satellite gravity is 5.5 mGal. Many interesting and previously uncharted features are apparent in these new gravity maps including a propagating rift wake and a large 'leaky transform' along the Pacific-Antarctic Rise.