Seafloor secrets revealed

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Science  03 Oct 2014:
Vol. 346, Issue 6205, pp. 32-33
DOI: 10.1126/science.1260459

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The trenches and ridges on Earth's seafloor are shaped by tectonic processes such as seafloor spreading and plate subduction. Detailed knowledge of seafloor tectonics is lacking in many areas. The most comprehensive data come from satellite altimeters, which use the strength and waveform of the radar signal returned from the sea surface to determine the tectonic properties of the underlying seafloor. On page 65 of this issue, Sandwell et al. (1) present the latest global marine gravity and depth data from altimeter missions CryoSat-2 and Jason-1. The data reveal buried tectonic structures, for example, in the Gulf of Mexico and the South Atlantic Ocean, that help to elucidate past tectonic processes.