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Name: Brianna
Status: student
Grade: 9-12
Country: Australia
Date: Fall 2011

I am working on "Mapping the Ocean Floor" and I want to know how they map the ocean floor. What are the sensors that are used? How is a true map made when there are different temperature layers that change imaging?

Hi Brianna,

The main tool used to map the ocean floor, is sonar. Sound waves are sent downward, and when they hit the bottom, they echo back upward again and are received by the sonar device. Knowing the speed of sound in water, the time it takes for the echo to return tells the operator how deep the ocean is directly below. Sophisticated sonar devices actually show a map of the bottom as the ship passes over.

Temperature differences do influence the speed of sound in water slightly, and therefore do somewhat influence accuracy of the sonar readings. But this can partly be corrected by knowing the general temperature versus ocean depth in that part of the ocean. Regards,

Bob Wilson

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