3D ocean map tracks ecosystems in unprecedented detail

Oceanographers are carving up the world’s seas like the last of the holiday turkey. A new 3D map sorts global water masses — from deep, frigid circumpolar waters to the oxygen-starved Black Sea — into 37 categories.

The map groups together marine regions of similar temperature, salinity, oxygen and nutrient levels. It has been available for only a few months, and researchers are still working through how they might use it. But its international team of developers hopes that the map will help conservationists, government officials and others to better understand the biogeography of the oceans and make decisions about which areas to preserve. It could also serve as a data-rich baseline for analysing future ocean changes.

Many existing systems also attempt to classify variations in the ocean, such as lists of large marine ecosystems or the Longhurst biogeographical provinces that are defined by the rate at which ocean life consumes carbon. But these are often limited to surface or coastal ecosystems. The latest effort, known as the ecological marine units (EMUs), is the most detailed attempt yet to cover the global ocean in three dimensions.

“What’s often missing is all that’s between the surface of the ocean and the ocean bottom,” says Dawn Wright, chief scientist of Esri, a geographic information-systems company in Redlands, California, that helped to develop the 3D map. “That’s what our project will hopefully bring to the table.”

This ecological marine unit (EMU) map shows variations in water conditions off the coast of Ireland. Keith VanGraafeiland & Sean Breyer/Esri


The interior texturing is going well so far. I just finished the tower, and through crazy (hacky) topology magic I managed to link the tiles pretty smoothly.

Lots of corridors and one or two rooms to go!

(By the way: The door in the bottom of the pit outside leads to the bottom level of the tower.)

Frans is shamelessly hiding behind that tree

(the green kids are stuck together, poor little ones)

I’m gonna work on the Pisces area now. Thank to the Map God I finished all the mapping in Capricorn. I think I’ll have a huge post up later about the entirety of the game (mechanics, more details about the story, etc). Maybe this will be up tomorrow, since I’m very busy with tilesets today.


Completed a texture map and began putting together a test map to see how the tiles work together.

I think it’s looking promising. I made it very uniform and blocky here, but like with the Spyro textures I can actually “bend” the textures quite far, so quite dynamic maps will be possible.

UPDATE: Gave it a quick lick of vertex paint (bottom picture)


An 18 minute ski trip through the mountains and ice sheets in East Greenland, narrated by the folks who took it, plus some details on mapping and digitizing the landscape. This is pretty great.

On one of the wildest coastlines on Earth, a group of four skiers plan to climb and ski new routes. Setting out from a small Inuit village, and with very little recorded information available, they hope a new piece of mapping technology can help them commit to ski down faces they haven’t seen. Featuring glorious footage of this rarely visited region, this documentary will give viewers a glimpse into the stunning, endless mountain ranges of East Greenland.