Better ocean maps would assist search and fisheries

World oceanography maps
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Better ocean maps would assist in the search for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, according to Australian National University professor, Neville Exon.

Professor Exon stated that better maps would benefit Australians in many ways, and would assist in finding planes and ships lost at sea.

'It's useful in the fisheries area, it's useful in the offshore resources area, it's useful in using the knowledge of biodiversity to set up fisheries management activities, and it's also useful in providing at least the framework of where a plane may have crashed,' he told media.

'If you know the water depth is so and so, the slope is this that and the other, then you can have a better idea of what techniques you'll need to use to do detailed work to find a plane.'

Australia has the third-largest marine exclusive economic zone in the world, but the CSIRO estimates only about 12 percent of it has been mapped.

The search for the Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 in the Indian Ocean is intensifying after several 'pings' were located that could be the plane's black box on the ocean floor.

Indian Ocean map
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Australian search coordinators turned to the people who know the ocean best: oceanographers.

The brief they gave to the team of experts from the Marine and Atmospheric Research arm of the Australian national science agency, based in Hobart, Tasmania, was to identify those areas of the Indian Ocean search corridor most likely to contain traces of Flight 370.

This would give the aircrews involved in the search a fighting chance of spotting debris from the airliner, as opposed to just flying blind each day into a vast swath of ocean. Oceanographers are using a technique called 'hindcasting', which is considered the CSIRO's best hope of guiding search crews to the scene of Flight 370's end.

The CSIRO scientists are also advising on where debris from a certain section of the southern corridor would probably have drifted over four weeks at sea.

They have begun identifying so-called 'aggregation points' in the vicinity of the search area. These are naturally occurring troughs in the surface of the sea, so shallow as to be invisible to the naked eye, but nonetheless important in terms of their influence on marine objects.