The world's oceans are critical to sustaining life, controlling climate, and providing economic wealth. Despite this fact, our understanding of the ocean and its seafloor processes is limited, in part because we lack accurate ocean mapping data. The situation is dramatic in the Arctic, where the physical environment is changing rapidly and where the vast majority of the 15,588,000-square-kilometer Arctic Ocean remains unmapped using modern survey methods. Given current and anticipated increases in vessel traffic, resource exploration and development, and impacts of climate change on coastal areas, the need for bathymetric data in the region is becoming increasingly urgent.
The Nippon Foundation-GEBCO Seabed 2030 Project promises a solution for the Arctic's growing data demand. Launched in 2017, the project aims to produce a definitive and publicly available high-resolution map of the world's ocean floor by 2030. To achieve these goals, the program is advancing three strategies. First, existing data must be identified and the remaining gaps mapped. For the Arctic, apart from the ice covered central basin, an appreciable volume of bathymetric data already exists, but the national governments and private sector companies who hold these data will need to make them available to Seabed 2030, even if at decimated levels. Second, the project looks to crowd sourced bathymetry as an important means of acquiring new datasets. Vessels operating in or passing through Arctic waters can log and contribute bathymetric data from their movements. Finally, even if existing data and crowd sourced bathymetry data contributions are made, there will undoubtedly be a need for a coordinated Arctic Ocean basin mapping campaign by a combination of government, scientific, and private industry survey vessels to fill the remaining gaps in coverage.
This paper will review the need for bathymetric data in the Arctic, the potential for the Seabed 2030 project to deliver these data, and the methods that will be used to ensure its success. It will also discuss the anticipated impacts of Seabed 2030 on Arctic resource development.