One year later: Benefits from the search for MH370

Updated: 2015-03-06 14:28


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The yearlong search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 has turned up no sign of the plane, but that doesn't mean it's been unproductive.

It has yielded lessons and discoveries that could benefit millions, including coastal Australians, air and sea travelers and scientists trying to understand ancient changes to the earth's crust.

The Associated Press writers sum up what searchers and investigators have learned so far.

One year later: Benefits from the search for MH370

A fast response craft from Australian Defence Vessel Ocean Shield tows Able Seaman Clearance Diver Matthew Johnston as he searches the ocean for debris in the search zone in the southern Indian Ocean for the missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 in this picture released by the Australian Defence Force April 8, 2014.[Photo/Agencies]

New underwater maps

In the Indian Ocean west of Australia, where experts believe the plane crashed, scientists have been mapping the sea floor to aid in the search for wreckage.

Previous maps relied on satellite data, which gave only rough estimates of the ocean's depth. Now, using sonar readings from ships, scientists have mapped an area the size of Nebraska and have discovered previously unknown trenches and underwater mountains that rival the height of any on Australia's surface.

Searchers are getting even more detailed sonar readings using small underwater vehicles called "towfish" that are towed just above the sea floor.

Scientists from around the world are eagerly anticipating the release of the three-dimensional maps and data once the search is completed.

Better tsunami prediction

Stuart Minchin, a divisional chief at Geoscience Australia, said that when the maps are released and further analyzed, they will give scientists a better understanding of areas that during earthquakes are susceptible to underwater landslides, which can create or exacerbate tsunamis.

He said the information will help scientists pinpoint areas along Australia's west coast that are particularly vulnerable to tsunamis and enable better warnings and predictions for coastal residents.

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