COOL IMAGES: Parting the Waters

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Science  01 Jan 1999:
Vol. 283, Issue 5398, pp. 7
DOI: 10.1126/science.283.5398.7a

Lake Tahoe's rugged floor is laid bare in this image, part of a computer animation made from sonar data collected by a U.S. Geological Survey boat last August. High-resolution sonar got much more efficient in the 1990s, spurring geophysicists to map the bathymetry of lakes, continental shelves, and oceans. By improving existing maps—often made decades ago—they hope to see the details of features such as earthquake-spawning faults and the underwater peaks and valleys that create pathways for pollutants.

This National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration page offers loads of cool bathymetry images, as well as maps of gravity fields, crustal age, and sediment thickness. Follow the links to zoom through the contours of the Great Lakes, reach gorgeous seafloor maps (computed from sonar and satellite altimetry data), or download a spinning relief map of the globe.

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