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Muller, RD, Qin XD, Sandwell DT, Dutkiewicz A, Williams SE, Flament N, Maus S, Seton M.  2016.  The GPlates Portal: Cloud-based interactive 3D visualization of global geophysical and geological data in a web browser. Plos One. 11   10.1371/journal.pone.0150883   AbstractWebsite

The pace of scientific discovery is being transformed by the availability of 'big data' and open access, open source software tools. These innovations open up new avenues for how scientists communicate and share data and ideas with each other and with the general public. Here, we describe our efforts to bring to life our studies of the Earth system, both at present day and through deep geological time. The GPlates Portal ( is a gateway to a series of virtual globes based on the Cesium Javascript library. The portal allows fast interactive visualization of global geophysical and geological data sets, draped over digital terrain models. The globes use WebGL for hardware-accelerated graphics and are cross-platform and cross-browser compatible with complete camera control. The globes include a visualization of a high-resolution global digital elevation model and the vertical gradient of the global gravity field, highlighting small-scale seafloor fabric such as abyssal hills, fracture zones and seamounts in unprecedented detail. The portal also features globes portraying seafloor geology and a global data set of marine magnetic anomaly identifications. The portal is specifically designed to visualize models of the Earth through geological time. These space-time globes include tectonic reconstructions of the Earth's gravity and magnetic fields, and several models of long-wavelength surface dynamic topography through time, including the interactive plotting of vertical motion histories at selected locations. The globes put the on-the-fly visualization of massive data sets at the fingertips of end-users to stimulate teaching and learning and novel avenues of inquiry.

Luttrell, KM, Tong XP, Sandwell DT, Brooks BA, Bevis MG.  2011.  Estimates of stress drop and crustal tectonic stress from the 27 February 2010 Maule, Chile, earthquake: Implications for fault strength. Journal of Geophysical Research-Solid Earth. 116   10.1029/2011jb008509   AbstractWebsite

The great 27 February 2010 M(w) 8.8 earthquake off the coast of southern Chile ruptured a similar to 600 km length of subduction zone. In this paper, we make two independent estimates of shear stress in the crust in the region of the Chile earthquake. First, we use a coseismic slip model constrained by geodetic observations from interferometric synthetic aperture radar (InSAR) and GPS to derive a spatially variable estimate of the change in static shear stress along the ruptured fault. Second, we use a static force balance model to constrain the crustal shear stress required to simultaneously support observed fore-arc topography and the stress orientation indicated by the earthquake focal mechanism. This includes the derivation of a semianalytic solution for the stress field exerted by surface and Moho topography loading the crust. We find that the deviatoric stress exerted by topography is minimized in the limit when the crust is considered an incompressible elastic solid, with a Poisson ratio of 0.5, and is independent of Young's modulus. This places a strict lower bound on the critical stress state maintained by the crust supporting plastically deformed accretionary wedge topography. We estimate the coseismic shear stress change from the Maule event ranged from -6 MPa (stress increase) to 17 MPa (stress drop), with a maximum depth-averaged crustal shear-stress drop of 4 MPa. We separately estimate that the plate-driving forces acting in the region, regardless of their exact mechanism, must contribute at least 27 MPa trench-perpendicular compression and 15 MPa trench-parallel compression. This corresponds to a depth-averaged shear stress of at least 7 MPa. The comparable magnitude of these two independent shear stress estimates is consistent with the interpretation that the section of the megathrust fault ruptured in the Maule earthquake is weak, with the seismic cycle relieving much of the total sustained shear stress in the crust.

Marks, KM, Smith WHF, Sandwell DT.  2010.  Evolution of errors in the altimetric bathymetry model used by Google Earth and GEBCO. Marine Geophysical Research. 31:223-238.   10.1007/s11001-010-9102-0   AbstractWebsite

We analyze errors in the global bathymetry models of Smith and Sandwell that combine satellite altimetry with acoustic soundings and shorelines to estimate depths. Versions of these models have been incorporated into Google Earth and the General Bathymetric Chart of the Oceans (GEBCO). We use Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC) multibeam surveys not previously incorporated into the models as "ground truth" to compare against model versions 7.2 through 12.1, defining vertical differences as "errors." Overall error statistics improve over time: 50th percentile errors declined from 57 to 55 to 49 m, and 90th percentile errors declined from 257 to 235 to 219 m, in versions 8.2, 11.1 and 12.1. This improvement is partly due to an increasing number of soundings incorporated into successive models, and partly to improvements in the satellite gravity model. Inspection of specific sites reveals that changes in the algorithms used to interpolate across survey gaps with altimetry have affected some errors. Versions 9.1 through 11.1 show a bias in the scaling from gravity in milliGals to topography in meters that affected the 15-160 km wavelength band. Regionally averaged (> 160 km wavelength) depths have accumulated error over successive versions 9 through 11. These problems have been mitigated in version 12.1, which shows no systematic variation of errors with depth. Even so, version 12.1 is in some respects not as good as version 8.2, which employed a different algorithm.

Becker, JJ, Sandwell DT, Smith WHF, Braud J, Binder B, Depner J, Fabre D, Factor J, Ingalls S, Kim SH, Ladner R, Marks K, Nelson S, Pharaoh A, Trimmer R, Von Rosenberg J, Wallace G, Weatherall P.  2009.  Global Bathymetry and Elevation Data at 30 Arc Seconds Resolution: SRTM30_PLUS. Marine Geodesy. 32:355-371.   10.1080/01490410903297766   AbstractWebsite

A new 30-arc second resolution global topography/bathymetry grid (SRTM30_PLUS) has been developed from a wide variety of data sources. Land and ice topography comes from the SRTM30 and ICESat topography, respectively. Ocean bathymetry is based on a new satellite-gravity model where the gravity-to-topography ratio is calibrated using 298 million edited soundings. The main contribution of this study is the compilation and editing of the raw soundings, which come from NOAA, individual scientists, SIO, NGA, JAMSTEC, IFREMER, GEBCO, and NAVOCEANO. The gridded bathymetry is available for ftp download in the same format as the 33 tiles of SRTM30 topography. There are 33 matching tiles of source identification number to convey the provenance of every grid cell. The raw sounding data, converted to a simple common format, are also available for ftp download.

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).

Wei, M, Sandwell D.  2006.  Estimates of heat flow from Cenozoic seafloor using global depth and age data. Tectonophysics. 417:325-335.   10.1016/j.tecto.2006.02.004   AbstractWebsite

The total heat output of the Earth constrains models of mantle and core dynamics. Previously published estimates (42-44 TW) have recently been questioned because the measured conductive heat flow on young oceanic lithosphere is about a factor of 2 less than the expected heat flow based on half-space cooling models. Taking the conductive ocean heat flow values at face value reduces the global heat flow from 44 to 31 TW, which has major implications for geodynamics and Earth history. To help resolve this issue, we develop a new method of estimating total oceanic heat flow from depth and age data. The overall elevation of the global ridge system, relative to the deep ocean basins, provides an independent estimate of the total heat content of the lithosphere. Heat flow is proportional to the measured subsidence rate times the heat capacity divided by the thermal expansion coefficient. The largest uncertainty in this method is due to uncertainties in the thermal expansion coefficient and heat capacity. Scalar subsidence rate is computed from gradients of depth and age grids. The method cannot be applied over very young seafloor (< 3 Ma) where age gradient is discontinuous and the assumption of isostasy is invalid. Between 3 and 66 Ma, the new estimates are in agreement with half-space cooling model. Our rnodel-independent estimate of the total heat output of Cenozoic seafloor is 18.6 to 20.5 TW, which leads to a global output of 42 to 44 TW in agreement with previous studies. (c) 2006 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Sandwell, D, Rosen P, Moore W, Gurrola E.  2004.  Radar interferometry for measuring tidal strains across cracks on Europa. Journal of Geophysical Research-Planets. 109   10.1029/2004je002276   AbstractWebsite

A major uncertainty in understanding the interaction between the surface of Europa and its ocean below is the present-day activity of fractures. Using well-constrained models for tidal strain and a force balance in a cracked shell, we estimate the shear and normal displacement of cracks that penetrate upward from the base of the shell. If more than half of the plate is fractured, then surface displacements having amplitudes of 3 to 30 cm will be localized in a band 1 to 100 km from the crack. Plate spreading will occur if more than similar to85% of the plate is fractured. The pattern of deformation is sensitive to both the percentage of plate that is cracked and the total thickness of the shell. Repeat-pass radar interferometry could easily detect and map the activity of the cracks during a short experiment from a variety of suitable orbits with repeating ground tracks.

Sandwell, DT, Johnson CL, Bilotti F, Suppe J.  1997.  Driving forces for limited tectonics on Venus. Icarus. 129:232-244.   10.1006/icar.1997.5721   AbstractWebsite

The very high correlation of geoid height and topography on Venus, along with the high geoid topography ratio, can be interpreted as local isostatic compensation and/or dynamic compensation of topography at depths ranging from 50 to 350 km. For local compensation within the lithosphere, the swell-push force is proportional to the first moment of the anomalous density. Since the long-wavelength isostatic geoid height is also proportional to the first moment of the anomalous density, the swell push force is equal to the geoid height scaled by -g(2)/2 pi G. Because of this direct relationship, the style (i.e., thermal, Airy, or Pratt compensation) and depth of compensation do not need to be specified and can in fact vary over the surface. Phillips (1990) showed that this simple relationship between swell-push force and geoid also holds for dynamic uplift by shear traction on the base of the lithosphere caused by thermal convection of an isoviscous, infinite half-space mantle. Thus for all reasonable isostatic models and particular classes of dynamic models, the geoid height uniquely determines the magnitude of the swell-push body force that is applied to the venusian lithosphere. Given this body force and assuming Venus can be approximated by a uniform thickness thin elastic shell over an inviscid sphere, we calculate the present-day global strain field using equations given in Banerdt (1986); areas of positive geoid height are in a state of extension while areas of negative geoid height are in a state of compression. The present-day model strain field is compared to global strain patterns inferred from Magellan-derived maps of wrinkle ridges and rift zones. Wrinkle ridges, which are believed to reflect distributed compressive deformation, are generally confined to regions with geoid of less than 20 m while rift zones are found primarily along geoid highs. Moreover, much of the observed deformation matches the present-day model strain orientations suggesting that most of the rifts on Venus and many of the wrinkle ridges formed in a stress field similar to the present one. In several large regions, the present-day model strain pattern does not match the observations. This suggests that either the geoid has changed significantly since most of the strain occurred or our model assumptions are incorrect (e.g., there could be local plate boundaries where the stress pattern is discontinuous). Since the venusian lithosphere shows evidence for limited strain, the calculation also provides an estimate of the overall strength of the lithosphere in compression and extension which can be compared with rheological models of yield strength versus depth. At the crests of the major swells, where evidence for rifting is abundant, we find that the temperature gradient must be at least 7 K/km. (C) 1997 Academic Press.

Sandwell, DT, Smith WHF.  1997.  Marine gravity anomaly from Geosat and ERS 1 satellite altimetry. Journal of Geophysical Research-Solid Earth. 102:10039-10054.   10.1029/96jb03223   AbstractWebsite

Closely spaced satellite altimeter profiles collected during the Geosat Geodetic Mission (similar to 6 km) and the ERS 1 Geodetic Phase (8 km) are easily converted to grids of vertical gravity gradient and gravity anomaly. The long-wavelength radial orbit error is suppressed below the noise level of the altimeter by taking the along-track derivative of each profile. Ascending and descending slope profiles are then interpolated onto separate uniform grids. These four grids are combined to form comparable grids of east and north vertical deflection using an iteration scheme that interpolates data gaps with minimum curvature. The vertical gravity gradient is calculated directly from the derivatives of the vertical deflection grids, while Fourier analysis is required to construct gravity anomalies from the two vertical deflection grids. These techniques are applied to a combination of high-density data from the dense mapping phases of Geosat and ERS 1 along with lower-density but higher-accuracy profiles from their repeat orbit phases. A comparison with shipboard gravity data shows the accuracy of the satellite-derived gravity anomaly is about 4-7 mGal for random skip tracks. The accuracy improves to 3 mGal when the ship track follows a Geosat Exact Repeat Mission track line. These data provide the first view of the ocean floor structures in many remote areas of the Earth. Some applications include inertial navigation, prediction of seafloor depth, planning shipboard surveys, plate tectonics, isostasy of volcanoes and spreading ridges, and petroleum exploration.

Smith, WHF, Sandwell DT.  1994.  Bathymetric Prediction from Dense Satellite Altimetry and Sparse Shipboard Bathymetry. Journal of Geophysical Research-Solid Earth. 99:21803-21824.   10.1029/94jb00988   AbstractWebsite

The southern oceans (south of 30 degrees S) are densely covered with satellite-derived gravity data (track spacing 2-4 km) and sparsely covered with shipboard depth soundings (hundreds of kilometers between tracks in some areas). Flexural isostatic compensation theory suggests that bathymetry and downward continued gravity data may show linear correlation in a band of wavelengths 15-160 km, if sediment cover is thin and seafloor relief is moderate. At shorter wavelengths, the gravity field is insensitive to seafloor topography because of upward continuation from the seafloor to the sea surface; at longer wavelengths, isostatic compensation cancels out most of the gravity field due to the seafloor topography. We combine this theory with Wiener optimization theory and empirical evidence for gravity noise-to-signal ratios to design low-pass and band-pass filters to use in predicting bathymetry from gravity. The prediction combines long wavelengths (> 160 km) from low-pass-filtered soundings with an intermediate-wavelength solution obtained from multiplying downward continued, band-pass filtered (15-160 km) gravity data by a scaling factor S. S is empirically determined from the correlation between gravity data and existing soundings in the 15-160 km band by robust regression and varies at long wavelengths. We find that areas with less than 200 m of sediment cover show correlation between gravity and bathymetry significant at the 99% level, and S may be related to the density of seafloor materials in these areas. The prediction has a horizontal resolution limit of 5-10 km in position and is within 100 m of actual soundings at 50% of grid points and within 240 m at 80% of these. In areas of very rugged topography the prediction underestimates the peak amplitudes of seafloor features. Images of the prediction reveal many tectonic features not seen on any existing bathymetric charts. Because the prediction relies on the gravity field at wavelengths < 160 km, it is insensitive to errors in the navigation of sounding lines but also cannot completely reproduce them. Therefore it may be used to locate tectonic features but should not be used to assess hazards to navigation. The prediction is available from the National Geophysical Data Center in both digital and printed form.

Schubert, G, Moore WB, Sandwell DT.  1994.  Gravity over Coronae and Chasmata on Venus. Icarus. 112:130-146.   10.1006/icar.1994.1174   AbstractWebsite

The global spherical harmonic model of Venus' gravity field MGNP60FSAAP, with horizontal resolution of about 600 km, shows that most coronae have little or no signature in the gravity field. Nevertheless, some coronae and some segments of chasmata are associated with distinct positive gravity anomalies. No corona has been found to have a negative gravity anomaly. The spatial coincidence of the gravity highs over four closely spaced 300- to 400-km-diameter coronae in Eastern Eistla Regio with the structures themselves is remarkable and argues for a near-surface or lithospheric origin of the gravity signals over such relatively small features. Apparent depths of compensation (ADCs) of the prominent gravity anomalies at Artemis, Latona, and Heng-o Coronae are about 150 to 200 km. The geoid/topography ratios (GTRs) at Artemis, Latona, and Heng-o Coronae lie in the range 32 to 35 m km(-1). The large ADCs and GTRs of Artemis, Latona, and Heng-o Coronae are consistent with topographically related gravity and a thick Venus lithosphere or shallowly compensated topography and deep positive mass anomalies due to subduction or underthrusting at these coronae. At arcuate segments of Hecate and Parga Chasmata ADCs are about 125 to 150 km, while those at Fatua Corona, four coronae in Eastern Eistla Regio, and an arcuate segment of Western Parga Chasma are about 75 km. The GTRs at Fatua Corona, the four coronae in eastern Eistla Regio, and the arcuate segments of Hecate, Parga, and Western Parga Chasmata are about 12 to 21 m km(-1). The ADCs and GTRs of these coronae and arcuate chasmata segments are generally too large to reflect compensation by crustal thickness variations. Instead, they suggest compensation by thermally induced thickness variations in a moderately thick (approximate to 100 km) lithosphere. Alternatively, the gravity signals at these sites could originate from deep positive mass anomalies due to subduction or underthrusting. Weighted linear least squares fits to GTR vs h (long-wavelength topography) data from Heng-o and Fatua Coronae, the four coronae in eastern Eistla Regio, and the arcuate segments of Hecate, Parga, and western Parga Chasmata are consistent with compensation by thermally induced thickness variations of a dense lithosphere above a less dense mantle; the fits imply an average lithosphere thickness of about 180 km and an excess lithospheric density of about 0.5 to 0.7%. Gravity anomalies at the arcuate segments of Dali and Diana Chasmata that form Latona Corona, at Artemis Chasma, and other arcuate segments of Parga and Hecate Chasmata occur on the concave sides of the arcs. By analogy with gravity anomalies of similar horizontal scale (600 km-several thousand kilometers) on the concave sides of terrestrial subduction zone arcs, which are due in large part to subducted lithosphere, it is inferred that the gravity anomalies on Venus are consistent with retrograde subduction at Artemis Chasma, along the northern and southern margins of Latona Corona, and elsewhere along Parga and Hecate Chasmata. (C) 1994 Academic Press, Inc.

Neumann, GA, Forsyth DW, Sandwell D.  1993.  Comparison of Marine Gravity from Shipboard and High-Density Satellite Altimetry Along the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, 30.5-Degrees-35.5-Degrees-S. Geophysical Research Letters. 20:1639-1642.   10.1029/93gl01487   AbstractWebsite

We compare new marine gravity fields derived from satellite altimetry with shipboard measurements over a region of more than 120,000 square kilometers in the central South Atlantic. Newly declassified satellite data were employed to construct free-air anomaly maps on 0.05 degree grids [Sandwell and Smith, 1992; Marks et al., 1993]. An extensive gravity and bathymetry dataset from four cruises along the Mid-Atlantic Ridge from 30.5-35.5-degrees-S provides a benchmark for testing the two-dimensional resolution and accuracy of the satellite measurements where their crosstrack spacing is near their widest. The satellite gravity signal is coherent with bathymetry in this region down to wavelengths of 26 km (gamma2=0.5), compared to 12.5 km for shipboard gravity. Residuals between the shipboard and satellite datasets have a roughly normal distribution. The standard deviation of satellite gravity with respect to shipboard measurements is nearly 7 mGal in a region of 140 mGal total variation, whereas the internal standard deviation at crossovers for GPS-navigated shipboard data is 1.8 mGal. The differences between shipboard and satellite data are too large to use satellite gravity to determine crustal thickness variations within a typical ridge segment.

Small, C, Sandwell DT.  1992.  An Analysis of Ridge Axis Gravity Roughness and Spreading Rate. Journal of Geophysical Research-Solid Earth. 97:3235-3245.   10.1029/91jb02465   AbstractWebsite

Fast and slow spreading ridges have radically different morphologic and gravimetric characteristics. In this study, altimeter measurements from the Geosat Exact Repeat Mission (Geosat ERM) are used to investigate spreading rate dependence of the ridge axis gravity field. Gravity roughness provides an estimate of the amplitude of the gravity anomaly and is robust to small errors in the location of the ridge axis. We compute gravity roughness as a weighted root mean square (RMS) of the vertical deflection at 438 ridge crossings on the mid-ocean ridge system. Ridge axis gravity anomalies show a decrease in amplitude with increasing spreading rate up to an intermediate rate of approximately 60-80 mm/yr and almost no change at higher rates; overall the roughness decreases by a factor of 10 between the lowest and highest rates. In addition to the amplitude decrease, the range of roughness values observed at a given spreading rate shows a similar order of magnitude decrease with transition between 60 and 80 mm/yr. The transition of ridge axis gravity is most apparent at three relatively unexplored locations on the Southeast Indian Ridge and the Pacific-Antarctic Rise; on these intermediate rate ridges the transition occurs abruptly across transform faults.

Royer, J-Y, Gahagan LM, Lawver LA, Mayes CL, Nuernberg D, Sandwell DT, Scotese CR.  1990.  A tectonic chart for the Southern Ocean derived from Geosat altimetry data. AAPG Studies in Geology. 31( St. John B, Ed.).:89-99., Tulsa, OK, United States (USA): American Association of Petroleum Geologists, Tulsa, OK AbstractWebsite

Presented is a new tectonic fabric map of the southern ocean south of 45S, derived from Geosat altimeter profiles and published bathymetric charts and magnetic anomaly picks. The interpretation of the Geosat data is based on an analysis of the first derivative of the geoid profiles (i.e., vertical deflection profiles). To improve the accuracy and resolution of the vertical deflection profiles, 22 repeat cycles from the first year of the Geosat/Exact Repeat Mission (Geosat/ERM) were averaged. At wavelengths less than about 200 km, the vertical deflection is highly correlated with sea-floor topography and thus reveals major features in areas that were previously unsurveyed. The density of the Geosat data is greatest in the high latitudes where lineated bathymetric features such as fracture zones, spreading ridges, trenches, and rifted margins stand out. To construct the tectonic fabric chart, the Geosat data are analyzed in combination with available shipboard bathymetric data and magnetic anomaly identifications. (Auth.)