Here on Earth, we have more detailed maps of Mars than of our own ocean, and that’s a problem. A massive force for surviving climate change, the ocean absorbs 90% of the heat caused by emissions and generates 50% of the oxygen we breathe. “We have the ocean to thank for so many aspects of our safety and well-being,” says Dawn Wright, oceanographer and chief scientist at geographic information system (GIS) provider Esri, who notes the ocean also provides renewable energy, a major food source, and a transportation corridor for not only ships but submarine internet cables.
Now, the same type of smart maps and geospatial technology guiding outer space exploration support the quest to better understand and protect our ocean. “For the first time, our knowledge of the ocean can approach our knowledge of the land,” Wright says. “We can turn the unknown deep into the known deep.”
GIS—the location intelligence technology businesses and governments use for everything from risk mitigation to crisis response, market analysis to operational efficiency—also applies to the ocean. The logic is simple: the ocean supports a sustainable planet and economy, and data-rich maps can support a sustainable ocean.