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New Estimates Say Earth's Oceans Smaller Than Once Believed 263

Posted by timothy
from the deeper-than-my-love-for-you dept.
Velcroman1 writes with this snippet from Fox News: "Using lead weights and depth sounders, scientists have made surprisingly accurate estimates of the ocean's depths in the past. Now, with satellites and radar, researchers have pinned down a more accurate answer to that age-old query: How deep is the ocean? And how big? As long ago as 1888, John Murray dangled lead weights from a rope off a ship to calculate the ocean's volume — the product of area and mean ocean depth. Using satellite data, researchers from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute set out to more accurately answer that question — and found out that it's 320 million cubic miles. And despite miles-deep abysses like the Mariana Trench, the ocean's mean depth is just 2.29 miles, thanks to the varied and bumpy ocean floor."
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New Estimates Say Earth's Oceans Smaller Than Once Believed

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  • by cytoman (792326) on Wednesday May 19, 2010 @06:23PM (#32270944)

    Using satellite data, researchers from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (WHOI) set out to more accurately answer that question -- and found out that it's 320 million cubic miles.

    So, what were the earlier estimates? I'm on Slashdot => I did not RTFA.

  • Evaporation? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by cytoman (792326) on Wednesday May 19, 2010 @06:26PM (#32270962)
    Do they consider the effect of evaporation? Earth loses some of its atmosphere to space constantly and it's not too improbable that some water vapor is also lost in this way...
  • Re:Evaporation? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Narcocide (102829) on Wednesday May 19, 2010 @06:30PM (#32271000) Homepage

    Don't panic, it's not very fast, but we DO need to encase it, ourselves and the sun in a giant Dyson Sphere [wikipedia.org] soon to mitigate the problem.

  • by maxume (22995) on Wednesday May 19, 2010 @06:41PM (#32271138)

    1 cubic mile is about 26 billion barrels.

  • by Itninja (937614) on Wednesday May 19, 2010 @06:53PM (#32271326) Homepage
    Do they include the extreme edge of the oceans (i.e. beaches) where the 'depth' is only a few millimeters? Or do they go out to sea a standard distance before they start measuring?
  • Re:Evaporation? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by w0mprat (1317953) on Wednesday May 19, 2010 @08:03PM (#32272222)
    While it's true we lose some gas at the top of our atmosphere, earth is probably sufficiently large that we have a net growth due to meteorite bombardment. (By every measure I've heard of the earth is supposedly getting heavier). We may take on extra H2O from water ice in meteroids?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 20, 2010 @03:08AM (#32275732)
    The actual real pain in the behind is twofold: you never use a single unit, and you use fractions. Five foot, three and three quarter inches. Seventeen pounds, eleven ounces. I should say threefold, because your units are never common multiples of anything. Twelve inches makes one foot. Three feet make one yard. 1760 yards make one mile.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 20, 2010 @11:46AM (#32280356)

    Japan did it, and it worked. Everything was in an old measurement system. Distance, weight, volume, area, it was all in an old standard that is comparable to the imperial system in that there were soft conversions as well. The conversion was mostly made after WWII, but more than 60 years later, we still use the same measurements, converted to metric, for a lot of things. For example, 1 "sho" of a liquid is approximately 1.8 liter. So you buy a "sho" of a liquid, knowing fully well it is 1.8 liters. Common housing is built on the old standard, but done entirely so using the metric system. (For example, the width of a standard door is 1 "gen" but there are no rulers that use such a unit.)

    You would think that such a conversion would be even more difficult than the US considering that 1 "masu" (a volume unit used for both dry and wet goods) in Japan was not a solid unit, as East Japan and West Japan used a slightly different size as the basis for the unit. But it worked.

    While I wouldn't say it would be easy to convert to the metric system, claiming that it is nearly impossible because everything is based on it (of course it is!) is ignorant at best. Guess what, we use 2x4 lumber to build houses too these days. But no one uses an inch/foot ruler to figure things out. We use the metric system. And roll our eyes over the fact that 2x4 isn't even 2" x 4".

    This is coming from an ex-pat living in Japan by the way. Converting isn't easy, but it is hardly as hard as you make it sound. The only reason the British are still in such a weird situation with a mix-match of units is, as far as I can tell, because they are British. It's called the imperial system for a reason.

    So what benefits do you have in switching? I'll leave that for NASA to explain.

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