It was recently asserted to me that we have no idea what Planet Earth really looks like below our feet. I responded that (mainly oil-industry) seismic data covers a vast area and so actually we have a fairly good idea. The response was that this seismic coverage is very localised in particular areas.

Some statistics would be useful in this discussion but I'm unable to find any definitive sources.

To be specific, lets assume we are interested in the top 3 kilometers of the crust, and that a minimum 2D seismic spacing of 2 km would be required.

On that basis, what percentage of the earth's surface is covered by reflection seismic data?

  • $\begingroup$ Are you restricting this to publicly-available data, or do you mean any data collected by (and possibly hoarded by) anyone? $\endgroup$ – Daniel Griscom Oct 11 '16 at 20:53
  • $\begingroup$ Good question @DanielGriscom - I think the question is what humans collectively know, so I'd include all data regardless of availability. $\endgroup$ – nickcrabtree Oct 12 '16 at 7:22

Perhaps an easier question would be - what percentage of the earth has discovered oil/gas fields! This data should be easier to find than the surveys themselves, and can probably give you a rough estimate.

For an idea of the publically available seismic surveys conducted around western Australia, this site (https://wapims.dmp.wa.gov.au/wapims) can show you all of their stored survey data. Not sure where you could get other data though, sorry!


I don't know the exact percentage. But it is way more than just oil fields, EarthScope has done most of the continental US.



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