Seafloor in the Expanded Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 Search Area

Wednesday, 17 December 2014
Karen M Marks1, Robin J Beaman2 and Walter H F Smith1, (1)NOAA Lab Satellite Altimetry, College Park, MD, United States, (2)James Cook University, Cairns, Australia
Smith and Marks (Eos Trans. AGU, 95(21), 27 May 2014) illustrated a map of the seafloor in the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 search area. This map showed a bathymetric model that is constructed from a combination of available ship soundings and depths estimated from satellite altimetry. They noted that available depth measurements covered only 5% of their study region, and that very few of these measurements were collected using modern multibeam and navigation systems.

Recently the MH370 search has been expanded along the “7th Arc” to encompass newly prioritized underwater search areas identified in an Australian Transport Safety Bureau report (AE-2014-054, 26 June 2014). While the new “Priority” search area is within the Eos article Fig. 1, the new “Wide” search area extends beyond the region evaluated in Eos. Additionally, multibeam data that were not incorporated in the bathymetric model have been made available to us after the Eos article was published.

This presentation will update and extend the study published in Eos. We will present illustrations of the expanded region, sounding coverage, and tectonic features that are associated with steep topographic slopes. Our results include comparisons of multibeam survey depths and bathymetric model depths. The standard deviation of the differences is 182 m, with the greatest differences (exceeding 1000 m) over steep topographic slopes, and the smallest over low-relief ocean floor. This is consistent with differences found by Smith and Sandwell (JGR, 99(B11), 1994) between soundings and bathymetric predictions from altimetry. Such depth differences are common where bathymetric model constraints are sparse, which is typical of many of the world’s oceans.