Ocean acoustic tomography

Ocean acoustic tomography is a technique used to measure temperatures and currents over large regions of the ocean.[1][2] On ocean basin scales, this technique is also known as acoustic thermometry. The technique relies on precisely measuring the time it takes sound signals to travel between two instruments, one an acoustic source and one a receiver, separated by ranges of 100–5000 km. If the locations of the instruments are known precisely, the measurement of time-of-flight can be used to infer the speed of sound, averaged over the acoustic path. Changes in the speed of sound are primarily caused by changes in the temperature of the ocean, hence the measurement of the travel times is equivalent to a measurement of temperature. A 1 °C change in temperature corresponds to about 4 m/s change in sound speed. An oceanographic experiment employing tomography typically uses several source-receiver pairs in a moored array that measures an area of ocean.

Tomography atlantic
The western North Atlantic showing the locations of two experiments that employed ocean acoustic tomography. AMODE, the "Acoustic Mid-Ocean Dynamics Experiment" (1990-1), was designed to study ocean dynamics in an area away from the Gulf Stream, and SYNOP (1988-9) was designed to synoptically measure aspects of the Gulf Stream. The colors show a snapshot of sound speed at 300 m depth derived from a high-resolution numerical ocean model. One of the key motivations for employing tomography is that the measurements give averages over the turbulent ocean.


Seawater is an electrical conductor, so the oceans are opaque to electromagnetic energy (e.g., light or radar). The oceans are fairly transparent to low-frequency acoustics, however. The oceans conduct sound very efficiently, particularly sound at low frequencies, i.e., less than a few hundred hertz.[3] These properties motivated Walter Munk and Carl Wunsch[4] [5] to suggest "acoustic tomography" for ocean measurement in the late 1970s. The advantages of the acoustical approach to measuring temperature are twofold. First, large areas of the ocean's interior can be measured by remote sensing. Second, the technique naturally averages over the small scale fluctuations of temperature (i.e., noise) that dominate ocean variability.

From its beginning, the idea of observations of the ocean by acoustics was married to estimation of the ocean's state using modern numerical ocean models and the techniques assimilating data into numerical models. As the observational technique has matured, so too have the methods of data assimilation and the computing power required to perform those calculations.

Multipath arrivals and tomography

Rays test
Propagation of acoustic ray paths through the ocean. From the acoustic source at left, the paths are refracted by faster sound speed above and below the SOFAR channel, hence they oscillate about the channel axis. Tomography exploits these "multipaths" to infer information about temperature variations as a function of depth. Note that the aspect ratio of the figure has been greatly skewed to better illustrate the rays; the maximum depth of the figure is only 4.5 km, while the maximum range is 500 km.

One of the intriguing aspects of tomography is that it exploits the fact that acoustic signals travel along a set of generally stable ray paths. From a single transmitted acoustic signal, this set of rays gives rise to multiple arrivals at the receiver, the travel time of each arrival corresponding to a particular ray path. The earliest arrivals correspond to the deeper-traveling rays, since these rays travel where sound speed is greatest. The ray paths are easily calculated using computers ("ray tracing"), and each ray path can generally be identified with a particular travel time. The multiple travel times measure the sound speed averaged over each of the multiple acoustic paths. These measurements make it possible to infer aspects of the structure of temperature or current variations as a function of depth. The solution for sound speed, hence temperature, from the acoustic travel times is an inverse problem.

The integrating property of long-range acoustic measurements

Ocean acoustic tomography integrates temperature variations over large distances, that is, the measured travel times result from the accumulated effects of all the temperature variations along the acoustic path, hence measurements by the technique are inherently averaging. This is an important, unique property, since the ubiquitous small-scale turbulent and internal-wave features of the ocean usually dominate the signals in measurements at single points. For example, measurements by thermometers (i.e., moored thermistors or Argo drifting floats) have to contend with this 1-2 °C noise, so that large numbers of instruments are required to obtain an accurate measure of average temperature. For measuring the average temperature of ocean basins, therefore, the acoustic measurement is quite cost effective. Tomographic measurements also average variability over depth as well, since the ray paths cycle throughout the water column.

Reciprocal tomography

"Reciprocal tomography" employs the simultaneous transmissions between two acoustic transceivers. A "transceiver" is an instrument incorporating both an acoustic source and a receiver. The slight differences in travel time between the reciprocally-traveling signals are used to measure ocean currents, since the reciprocal signals travel with and against the current. The average of these reciprocal travel times is the measure of temperature, with the small effects from ocean currents entirely removed. Ocean temperatures are inferred from the sum of reciprocal travel times, while the currents are inferred from the difference of reciprocal travel times. Generally, ocean currents (typically 10 cm/s) have a much smaller effect on travel times than sound speed variations (typically 5 m/s), so "one-way" tomography measures temperature to good approximation.


In the ocean, large-scale temperature changes can occur over time intervals from minutes (internal waves) to decades (oceanic climate change). Tomography has been employed to measure variability over this wide range of temporal scales and over a wide range of spatial scales. Indeed, tomography has been contemplated as a measurement of ocean climate using transmissions over antipodal distances.[3]

Tomography has come to be a valuable method of ocean observation,[6] exploiting the characteristics of long-range acoustic propagation to obtain synoptic measurements of average ocean temperature or current. One of the earliest applications of tomography in ocean observation occurred in 1988-9. A collaboration between groups at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution deployed a six-element tomographic array in the abyssal plain of the Greenland Sea gyre to study deep water formation and the gyre circulation.[7][8] Other applications include the measurement of ocean tides, [9] [10] and the estimation of ocean mesoscale dynamics by combining tomography, satellite altimetry, and in situ data with ocean dynamical models.[11] In addition to the decade-long measurements obtained in the North Pacific, acoustic thermometry has been employed to measure temperature changes of the upper layers of the Arctic Ocean basins,[12] which continues to be an area of active interest. [13] Acoustic thermometry was also recently been used to determine changes to global-scale ocean temperatures using data from acoustic pulses sent from one end of the earth to the other.[14] [15]

Acoustic thermometry

Acoustic thermometry is an idea to observe the world's ocean basins, and the ocean climate in particular, using trans-basin acoustic transmissions. "Thermometry", rather than "tomography", has been used to indicate basin-scale or global scale measurements. Prototype measurements of temperature have been made in the North Pacific Basin and across the Arctic Basin.[1]

Starting in 1983, John Spiesberger of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, and Ted Birdsall and Kurt Metzger of the University of Michigan developed the use of sound to infer information about the ocean's large-scale temperatures, and in particular to attempt the detection of global warming in the ocean. This group transmitted sounds from Oahu that were recorded at about ten receivers stationed around the rim of the Pacific Ocean over distances of 4000 km.[16] [17] These experiments demonstrated that changes in temperature could be measured with an accuracy of about 20 millidegrees. Spiesberger et al. did not detect global warming. Instead they discovered that other natural climatic fluctuations, such as El Nino, were responsible in part for substantial fluctuations in temperature that may have masked any slower and smaller trends that may have occurred from global warming [18]

The Acoustic Thermometry of Ocean Climate (ATOC) program was implemented in the North Pacific Ocean, with acoustic transmissions from 1996 through fall 2006. The measurements terminated when agreed-upon environmental protocols ended. The decade-long deployment of the acoustic source showed that the observations are sustainable on even a modest budget. The transmissions have been verified to provide an accurate measurement of ocean temperature on the acoustic paths, with uncertainties that are far smaller than any other approach to ocean temperature measurement.[19][20]

The ATOC prototype array was an acoustic source located just north of Kauai, Hawaii, and transmissions were made to receivers of opportunity in the North Pacific Basin. The source signals were broadband with frequencies centered on 75 Hz and a source level of 195 dB re 1 micropascal at 1 m, or about 250 watts. Six transmissions of 20-minute duration were made on every fourth day.

Acoustic transmissions and marine mammals

The ATOC project was embroiled in issues concerning the effects of acoustics on marine mammals (e.g. whales, porpoises, sea lions, etc.).[21][22][23] Public discussion was complicated by technical issues from a variety of disciplines (physical oceanography, acoustics, marine mammal biology, etc.) that makes understanding the effects of acoustics on marine mammals difficult for the experts, let alone the general public. Many of the issues concerning acoustics in the ocean and their effects on marine mammals were unknown. Finally, there were a variety of public misconceptions initially, such as a confusion of the definition of sound levels in air vs. sound levels in water. If a given number of decibels in water are interpreted as decibels in air, the sound level will seem to be orders of magnitude larger than it really is - at one point the ATOC sound levels were erroneously interpreted as "louder than 10,000 747 airplanes".[5] In fact, the sound powers employed, 250 W, were comparable those made by blue or fin whales, although those whales vocalize at much lower frequencies. The ocean carries sound so efficiently that sounds do not have to be that loud to cross ocean basins. Other factors in the controversy were the extensive history of activism where marine mammals are concerned, stemming from the ongoing whaling conflict, and the sympathy that much of the public feels toward marine mammals.[24]

As a result of this controversy, the ATOC program conducted a $6 million study of the effects of the acoustic transmissions on a variety of marine mammals. After six years of study the official, formal conclusion from this study was that the ATOC transmissions have "no significant biological impact".[25][26][27][28]

Other acoustics activities in the ocean may not be so benign insofar as marine mammals are concerned. Various types of man-made sounds have been studied as potential threats to marine mammals, such as airgun shots for geophysical surveys,[29] or transmissions by the U.S. Navy for various purposes.[30] The actual threat depends on a variety of factors beyond noise levels: sound frequency, frequency and duration of transmissions, the nature of the acoustic signal (e.g., a sudden pulse, or coded sequence), depth of the sound source, directionality of the sound source, water depth and local topography, reverberation, etc.

In the case of the ATOC, the source was mounted on the bottom about a half mile deep, hence marine mammals, which are bound to the surface, were generally further than a half mile from the source. This fact, combined with the modest source level, the infrequent 2% duty cycle (the sound is on only 2% of the day), and other such factors, made the sound transmissions benign in its effect on marine life.

Types of transmitted acoustic signals

Tomographic transmissions consist of long coded signals (e.g., "m-sequences") lasting 30 seconds or more. The frequencies employed range from 50 to 1000 Hz and source powers range from 100 to 250 W, depending on the particular goals of the measurements. With precise timing such as from GPS, travel times can be measured to a nominal accuracy of 1 millisecond. While these transmissions are audible near the source, beyond a range of several kilometers the signals are usually below ambient noise levels, requiring sophisticated spread-spectrum signal processing techniques to recover them.

See also


  1. ^ a b Munk, Walter; Peter Worcester; Carl Wunsch (1995). Ocean Acoustic Tomography. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-47095-7.
  2. ^ Walter Sullivan (1987-07-28). "Vast Effort Aims to Reveal Oceans' Hidden Patterns". New York Times. Retrieved 2007-11-05.
  3. ^ a b "The Heard Island Feasibility Test". Acoustical Society of America. 1994.
  4. ^ Munk, Walter; Carl Wunsch (1982). "Observing the ocean in the 1990s". Phil. Trans. R. Soc. Lond. A. 307 (1499): 439–464. Bibcode:1982RSPTA.307..439M. doi:10.1098/rsta.1982.0120.
  5. ^ a b Walter Munk (2006). History of Oceanography [1], M. Jochum and R. Murtugudde, eds. (eds.). Ocean Acoustic Tomography; from a stormy start to an uncertain future. New York: Springer.CS1 maint: uses editors parameter (link)
  6. ^ Fischer, A.S.; Hall, J.; Harrison, D.E.; Stammer, D.; Benveniste, J. (2010). "Conference Summary-Ocean Information for Society: Sustaining the Benefits, Realizing the Potential". In Hall, J.; Harrison, D.E.; Stammer, D. (eds.). Proceedings of OceanObs'09: Sustained Ocean Observations and Information for Society (Vol. 1). ESA Publication WPP-306.
  7. ^ Pawlowicz, R.; et al. (1995-03-15). "Thermal evolution of the Greenland Sea gyre in 1988-1989". 100. Journal of Geophysical Research. pp. 4727–2750.
  8. ^ Morawitz, W. M. L.; et al. (1996). "Three-dimensional observations of a deep convective chimney in the Greenland Sea during winter 1988/1989". 26. Journal of Physical Oceanography. pp. 2316–2343.
  9. ^ Stammer, D.; et al. (2014). "Accuracy assessment of global barotropic ocean tide models". Reviews of Geophysics. 52 (3): 243–282. Bibcode:2014RvGeo..52..243S. doi:10.1002/2014RG000450.
  10. ^ Dushaw, B.D.; Worcester, P.F.; Dzieciuch, M.A. (2011). "On the predictability of mode-1 internal tides". Deep-Sea Research Part I. 58 (6): 677–698. Bibcode:2011DSRI...58..677D. doi:10.1016/j.dsr.2011.04.002.
  11. ^ Lebedev, K.V.; Yaremchuck, M.; Mitsudera, H.; Nakano, I.; Yuan, G. (2003). "Monitoring the Kuroshio Extension through dynamically constrained synthesis of the acoustic tomography, satellite altimeter and in situ data". Journal of Physical Oceanography. 59 (6): 751–763. doi:10.1023/b:joce.0000009568.06949.c5.
  12. ^ Mikhalevsky, P. N.; Gavrilov, A.N. (2001). "Acoustic thermometry in the Arctic Ocean". Polar Research. 20 (2): 185–192. Bibcode:2001PolRe..20..185M. doi:10.1111/j.1751-8369.2001.tb00055.x.
  13. ^ Mikhalevsky, P. N.; Sagan, H.; et al. (2001). "Multipurpose acoustic networks in the integrated Arctic Ocean observing system". Arctic. 28, Suppl. 1 (5): 17 pp. doi:10.14430/arctic4449. hdl:20.500.11937/9445. Retrieved April 24, 2015.
  14. ^ Munk, W.H.; O'Reilly, W.C.; Reid, J.L. (1988). "Australia-Bermuda Sound Transmission Experiment (1960) Revisited". Journal of Physical Oceanography. 18 (12): 1876–1998. Bibcode:1988JPO....18.1876M. doi:10.1175/1520-0485(1988)018<1876:ABSTER>2.0.CO;2.
  15. ^ Dushaw, B.D.; Menemenlis, D. (2014). "Antipodal acoustic thermometry: 1960, 2004". Deep-Sea Research Part I. 86: 1–20. Bibcode:2014DSRI...86....1D. doi:10.1016/j.dsr.2013.12.008.
  16. ^ Spiesberger, john; Kurt Metzter (1992). "Basin scale ocean monitoring with acoustic thermometers". 5. Oceanography: 92–98. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  17. ^ Spiesberger, J.L.; K. Metzger (1991). "Basin-scale tomography: A new tool for studying weather and climate". J. Geophys. Res. 96 (C3): 4869–4889. Bibcode:1991JGR....96.4869S. doi:10.1029/90JC02538.
  18. ^ Spiesberger, John; Harley Hurlburt; Mark Johnson; Mark Keller; Steven Meyers; and J.J. O'Brien (1998). "Acoustic thermometry data compared with two ocean models: The importance of Rossby waves and ENSO in modifying the ocean interior". Dynamics of Atmospheres and Oceans. 26 (4): 209–240. Bibcode:1998DyAtO..26..209S. doi:10.1016/s0377-0265(97)00044-4.
  19. ^ The ATOC Consortium (1998-08-28). "Ocean Climate Change: Comparison of Acoustic Tomography, Satellite Altimetry, and Modeling". Science Magazine. pp. 1327–1332. Retrieved 2007-05-28.
  20. ^ Dushaw, Brian; et al. (2009-07-19). "A decade of acoustic thermometry in the North Pacific Ocean". 114, C07021. J. Geophys. Res. Bibcode:2009JGRC..114.7021D. doi:10.1029/2008JC005124.
  21. ^ Stephanie Siegel (June 30, 1999). "Low-frequency sonar raises whale advocates' hackles". CNN. Retrieved 2007-10-23.
  22. ^ Malcolm W. Browne (June 30, 1999). "Global Thermometer Imperiled by Dispute". NY Times. Retrieved 2007-10-23.
  23. ^ Kenneth Chang (June 24, 1999). "An Ear to Ocean Temperature". ABC News. Archived from the original on 2003-10-06. Retrieved 2007-10-23.
  24. ^ Potter, J. R. (1994). "ATOC: Sound Policy or Enviro-Vandalism? Aspects of a Modern Media-Fueled Policy Issue". 3. The Journal of Environment & Development. pp. 47–62. doi:10.1177/107049659400300205. Retrieved 2009-11-20.
  25. ^ National Research Council (2000). Marine mammals and low-frequency sound: Progress since 1994. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press. doi:10.17226/9756. ISBN 978-0-309-06886-4. PMID 25077255.
  26. ^ Frankel, A. S.; C. W. Clark (2000). "Behavioral responses of humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) to full-scale ATOC signals". 108. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America. pp. 1–8. Retrieved 2009-08-15.
  27. ^ Frankel, A. S.; C. W. Clark (2002). "ATOC and other factors affecting distribution and abundance of humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) off the north shore of Kauai". 18. Marine Mammal Science. pp. 664–662. Archived from the original on 2013-01-05. Retrieved 2009-08-15.
  28. ^ Mobley, J. R. (2005). "Assessing responses of humpback whales to North Pacific Acoustic Laboratory (NPAL) transmissions: Results of 2001-2003 aerial surveys north of Kauai". 117. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America. pp. 1666–1673. Retrieved 2009-08-15.
  29. ^ Bombosch, A. (2014). "Predictive habitat modelling of humpback (Megaptera novaeangliae) and Antarctic minke (Balaenoptera bonaerensis) whales in the Southern Ocean as a planning tool for seismic surveys". Deep-Sea Research Part I: Oceanographic Research Papers. 91: 101–114. Bibcode:2014DSRI...91..101B. doi:10.1016/j.dsr.2014.05.017.
  30. ^ National Research Council (2003). Ocean Noise and Marine Mammals. National Academies Press. ISBN 978-0-309-08536-6. Retrieved 2015-01-25.

Further reading

  • B. D. Dushaw, 2013. "Ocean Acoustic Tomography" in Encyclopedia of Remote Sensing, E. G. Njoku, Ed., Springer, Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg, 2013. ISBN 978-0-387-36698-2.
  • W. Munk, P. Worcester, and C. Wunsch (1995). Ocean Acoustic Tomography. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-47095-1.
  • P. F. Worcester, 2001: "Tomography," in Encyclopedia of Ocean Sciences, J. Steele, S. Thorpe, and K. Turekian, Eds., Academic Press Ltd., 2969–2986.

External links

Acoustic tag

Acoustic tags are small sound-emitting devices that allow the detection and/or remote tracking of organisms in aquatic ecosystems. Acoustic tags are commonly used to monitor the behavior of fish. Studies can be conducted in lakes, rivers, tributaries, estuaries or at sea. Acoustic tag technology allows researchers to obtain locational data of tagged fish: depending on tag and receiver array configurations, researchers can receive simple presence/absence data, 2D positional data, or even 3D fish tracks in real-time with sub-meter resolution.

Acoustic tags allow researchers to:

Conduct Survival Studies

Monitor Migration/Passage/Trajectory

Track Behavior in Two or Three Dimensions (2D or 3D)

Measure Bypass Effectiveness at Dams and other Passages

Observe Predator/Prey Dynamics

Acoustical oceanography

Acoustical oceanography is the use of underwater sound to study the sea, its boundaries and its contents.

Bahama Banks

The Bahama Banks are the submerged carbonate platforms that make up much of the Bahama Archipelago. The term is usually applied in referring to either the Great Bahama Bank around Andros Island, or the Little Bahama Bank of Grand Bahama Island and Great Abaco, which are the largest of the platforms, and the Cay Sal Bank north of Cuba. The islands of these banks are politically part of the Bahamas. Other banks are the three banks of the Turks and Caicos Islands, namely the Caicos Bank of the Caicos Islands, the bank of the Turks Islands, and wholly submerged Mouchoir Bank. Further southeast are the equally wholly submerged Silver Bank and Navidad Bank north of the Dominican Republic.

Carl Wunsch

Carl Wunsch was the Cecil and Ida Green Professor of Physical Oceanography at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, until he retired in 2013. He is known for his early work in internal waves and more recently for research into the effects of ocean circulation on climate.

Echo sounding

Echo sounding is a type of sonar used to determine the depth of water by transmitting sound waves into water. The time interval between emission and return of a pulse is recorded, which is used to determine the depth of water along with the speed of sound in water at the time. This information is then typically used for navigation purposes or in order to obtain depths for charting purposes. Echo sounding can also refer to hydroacoustic "echo sounders" defined as active sound in water (sonar) used to study fish. Hydroacoustic assessments have traditionally employed mobile surveys from boats to evaluate fish biomass and spatial distributions. Conversely, fixed-location techniques use stationary transducers to monitor passing fish.

The word sounding is used for all types of depth measurements, including those that don't use sound, and is unrelated in origin to the word sound in the sense of noise or tones. Echo sounding is a more rapid method of measuring depth than the previous technique of lowering a sounding line until it touched bottom.

Fisheries acoustics

Fisheries acoustics includes a range of research and practical application topics using acoustical devices as sensors in aquatic environments. Acoustical techniques can be applied to sensing aquatic animals, zooplankton, and physical and biological habitat characteristics.

Greenland Plain

The Greenland Abyssal Plain at 75°N 3°W is a bathymetric depression in the Greenland Sea. It is delimited by Mohns Ridge and Jan Mayen pressure zone in the South and separated by a smaller ridge to the Boreas Abyssal Plain in the North.


Hydroacoustics is the study and application of sound in water. Hydroacoustics, using sonar technology, is most commonly used for monitoring of underwater physical and biological characteristics.

Hydroacoustics can be used to detect the depth of a water body (bathymetry), as well as the presence or absence, abundance, distribution, size, and behavior of underwater plants and animals. Hydroacoustic sensing involves "passive acoustics" (listening for sounds) or active acoustics making a sound and listening for the echo, hence the common name for the device, echo sounder or echosounder.

There are a number of different causes of noise from shipping. These can be subdivided into those caused by the propeller, those caused by machinery, and those caused by the movement of the hull through the water. The relative importance of these three different categories will depend, amongst other things, on the ship type

One of the main causes of hydro acoustic noise from fully submerged lifting surfaces is the unsteady separated turbulent flow near the surface's trailing edge that produces pressure fluctuations on the surface and unsteady oscillatory flow in the near wake.The relative motion between the surface and the ocean creates a turbulent boundary layer (TBL) that surrounds the surface. The noise is generated by the fluctuating velocity and pressure fields within this TBL.

Integrated Ocean Observing System

The Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS) is an organization of systems that routinely and continuously provides quality controlled data and information on current and future states of the oceans and Great Lakes from the global scale of ocean basins to local scales of coastal ecosystems. It is a multidisciplinary system designed to provide data in forms and at rates required by decision makers to address seven societal goals.

IOOS is developing as a multi-scale system that incorporates two, interdependent components, a global ocean component, called the Global Ocean Observing System, with an emphasis on ocean-basin scale observations and a coastal component that focuses on local to Large Marine Ecosystem (LME) scales.

Large Marine Ecosystems (LMEs) in U.S. coastal waters and IOOS Regional Associations.

Many of IOOS' component regional systems are being dismantled for lack of federal funding, including the Gulf of Maine Ocean Observing System GoMOOS . This has resulted in the loss of long term data sets and information used by Coast Guard search and rescue operations.

List of submarine volcanoes

A list of active and extinct submarine volcanoes and seamounts located under the world's oceans. There are estimated to be 40,000 to 55,000 seamounts in the global oceans. Almost all are not well-mapped and many may not have been identified at all. Most are unnamed and unexplored. This list is therefore confined to seamounts that are notable enough to have been named and/or explored.

Ocean heat content

The improper expression Oceanic heat content (OHC) refers to the heat absorbed by the ocean, which is then stored as a form of internal energy or enthalpy (because, in fact, heat is not a function of state and thus cannot be stored as it is in any way). Oceanography and climatology are the science branches which study ocean heat content. Changes in the ocean heat content play an important role in the sea level rise, because of thermal expansion. It is with high confidence that ocean warming accounts for 90% of the energy accumulation from global warming between 1971 and 2010. About one third of that extra heat has been estimated to propagate to depth below 700 meters. Beyond the direct impact of thermal expansion, ocean warming contributes to increased rates of ice melt of glaciers in fjords of Greenland and ice sheets in Antarctica. Warmer Oceans are also responsible for coral bleaching.

Oceanic plateau

An oceanic or submarine plateau is a large, relatively flat elevation that is higher than the surrounding relief with one or more relatively steep sides.There are 184 oceanic plateaus covering an area of 18,486,600 km2 (7,137,700 sq mi), or about 5.11% of the oceans. The South Pacific region around Australia and New Zealand contains the greatest number of oceanic plateaus (see map).

Oceanic plateaus produced by large igneous provinces are often associated with hotspots, mantle plumes, and volcanic islands — such as Iceland, Hawaii, Cape Verde, and Kerguelen. The three largest plateaus, the Caribbean, Ontong Java, and Mid-Pacific Mountains, are located on thermal swells. Other oceanic plateaus, however, are made of rifted continental crust, for example Falkland Plateau, Lord Howe Rise, and parts of Kerguelen, Seychelles, and Arctic ridges.

Plateaus formed by large igneous provinces were formed by the equivalent of continental flood basalts such as the Deccan Traps in India and the Snake River Plain in the United States.

In contrast to continental flood basalts, most igneous oceanic plateaus erupt through young and thin (6–7 km (3.7–4.3 mi)) mafic or ultra-mafic crust and are therefore uncontaminated by felsic crust and representative for their mantle sources.

These plateaus often rise 2–3 km (1.2–1.9 mi) above the surrounding ocean floor and are more buoyant than oceanic crust. They therefore tend to withstand subduction, more-so when thick and when reaching subduction zones shortly after their formations. As a consequence, they tend to "dock" to continental margins and be preserved as accreted terranes. Such terranes are often better preserved than the exposed parts of continental flood basalts and are therefore a better record of large-scale volcanic eruptions throughout Earth's history. This "docking" also means that oceanic plateaus are important contributors to the growth of continental crust. Their formations often had a dramatic impact on global climate, such as the most recent plateaus formed, the three, large, Cretaceous oceanic plateaus in the Pacific and Indian Ocean: Ontong Java, Kerguelen, and Caribbean.

Ray tracing (physics)

In physics, ray tracing is a method for calculating the path of waves or particles through a system with regions of varying propagation velocity, absorption characteristics, and reflecting surfaces. Under these circumstances, wavefronts may bend, change direction, or reflect off surfaces, complicating analysis. Ray tracing solves the problem by repeatedly advancing idealized narrow beams called rays through the medium by discrete amounts. Simple problems can be analyzed by propagating a few rays using simple mathematics. More detailed analysis can be performed by using a computer to propagate many rays.

When applied to problems of electromagnetic radiation, ray tracing often relies on approximate solutions to Maxwell's equations that are valid as long as the light waves propagate through and around objects whose dimensions are much greater than the light's wavelength. Ray theory does not describe phenomena such as interference and diffraction, which require wave theory (involving the phase of the wave).

SOFAR channel

The SOFAR channel (short for Sound Fixing and Ranging channel), or deep sound channel (DSC), is a horizontal layer of water in the ocean at which depth the speed of sound is at its minimum. The SOFAR channel acts as a waveguide for sound, and low frequency sound waves within the channel may travel thousands of miles before dissipating. This phenomenon is an important factor in submarine warfare. The deep sound channel was discovered and described independently by Maurice Ewing, Stanley Wong and Leonid Brekhovskikh in the 1940s.

Sofar bomb

In oceanography, a sofar bomb (Sound Fixing And Ranging bomb), occasionally referred to as a sofar disc, is a long-range position-fixing system that uses impulsive sounds in the deep sound channel of the ocean to enable pinpointing of the location of ships or crashed planes. The deep sound channel is ideal for the device, as the minimum speed of sound at that depth improves the signal's traveling ability. A position is determined from the differences in arrival times at receiving stations of known geographic locations. The useful range from the signal sources to the receiver can exceed 3,000 miles (4,800 km).


Tomography is imaging by sections or sectioning, through the use of any kind of penetrating wave. The method is used in radiology, archaeology, biology, atmospheric science, geophysics, oceanography, plasma physics, materials science, astrophysics, quantum information, and other areas of science. The word tomography is derived from Ancient Greek τόμος tomos, "slice, section" and γράφω graphō, "to write" (see also Etymology). A device used in tomography is called a tomograph, while the image produced is a tomogram.

In many cases, the production of these images is based on the mathematical procedure tomographic reconstruction, such as X-ray computed tomography technically being produced from multiple projectional radiographs. Many different reconstruction algorithms exist. Most algorithms fall into one of two categories: filtered back projection (FBP) and iterative reconstruction (IR). These procedures give inexact results: they represent a compromise between accuracy and computation time required. FBP demands fewer computational resources, while IR generally produces fewer artifacts (errors in the reconstruction) at a higher computing cost.Although MRI and ultrasound are transmission methods, they typically do not require movement of the transmitter to acquire data from different directions. In MRI, both projections and higher spatial harmonics are sampled by applying spatially-varying magnetic fields; no moving parts are necessary to generate an image. On the other hand, since ultrasound uses time-of-flight to spatially encode the received signal, it is not strictly a tomographic method and does not require multiple acquisitions at all.

Undersea mountain range

Undersea mountain ranges are mountain ranges that are mostly or entirely underwater, and specifically under the surface of an ocean. If originated from current tectonic forces, they are often referred to as a mid-ocean ridge. In contrast, if formed by past above-water volcanism, they are known as a seamount chain. The largest and best known undersea mountain range is a mid-ocean ridge, the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. It has been observed that, "similar to those on land, the undersea mountain ranges are the loci of frequent volcanic and earthquake activity".

Walter Munk

Walter Heinrich Munk (October 19, 1917 – February 8, 2019) was an American physical oceanographer. He was a professor of geophysics at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego in La Jolla. Born to a prominent Austrian family, in 1932 Munk was sent to school in the United States at age 14. Abandoning a New York banking career, Munk obtained a scientific education at the California Institute of Technology and his doctorate from Scripps. During World War II, Munk and his doctoral advisor Harald Sverdrup developed methods for predicting surf conditions on beaches, saving countless lives during allied landings in North Africa, the Pacific, and Northern Europe. After the war, Scripps grew from a small biological station to a major research institution. Munk and his wife Judy were active in developing the Scripps campus and integrating it with the new University of California, San Diego.

One of the first to bring statistical methods to the analysis of oceanographic data, Munk's work is noted for creating fruitful areas of research that continue to be explored. These areas include surface waves, geophysical implications of variations in the Earth's rotation, tides, internal waves, deep-ocean drilling into the sea floor, acoustical measurements of ocean properties, sea level rise, and climate change. In a 1991 experiment, Munk and his collaborators tested the ability of underwater sound to propagate from the Southern Indian Ocean across all ocean basins. The aim was to use the acoustic signals to measure changes in broad-scale ocean temperatures. The experiment was criticized by environmental groups, who expected that the loud acoustic signals would adversely affect marine life. Munk was a member of the JASON think tank, and he held a Secretary of the Navy/Chief of Naval Operations Oceanography Chair. Munk died at age 101 in La Jolla, California.

Wave base

The wave base, in physical oceanography, is the maximum depth at which a water wave's passage causes significant water motion. For water depths deeper than the wave base, bottom sediments and the seafloor are no longer stirred by the wave motion above.

Ocean acoustics
Acoustic ecology
Related topics
Ocean zones
Sea level


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