TODAY, 11th August, 2016 is “Mountain Day” as Japan’s newest public holiday.
But, according to NASA & NOAA’s Landsat and Japan’s own Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI)’s ASTA program and JAXA space Agency, the surface of the Earth is flat. That’s right – they seriously consider the hills irrelevant to overall planet size and thus JAPAN HAS NO MOUNTAINS!
Yet earlier this year on Earth Day I climbed Mt Oyama (1,252 m) and just last month Mt Fuji (3,776 m) and assuredly both are not flat… Plus most biological interactions are close up and at the scale of a leaf or of an earthworm’s burrow and its castings.
Incredibly, all scientific calculations of topography are missing from Earth’s basic data, e.g., for total terrestrial biomes, vegetation, productivity and – importantly – global topsoil humus that is created by earthworm activities and which we rely upon for our survival.
As a very simple example: Mt Fuji is 3,776 km high with mean basal diameter of 38 km (radius = 19 km) and circumference of 123 km giving it a ‘footprint’ of ca. 1,134 km2. However, the lateral surface area of this near-perfect, cone-shaped volcano is 1,156 km2, i.e., about +22 km2 or 2% larger than the flat surface area as NASA has it. Secondary undulations of terrain are reasonably assumed to likely double its skin to ~2,312 km2.
Japan itself is particularly mountainous, yet its area is claimed as just 377,900 km² including 3,091 km2 inland water such as Lake Biwako to give a flat 2-D land area of 374,809 km2. Were this also doubled (x 2) to account for hilly 3-D terrain then actual total undulating land surface is closer to ~749,618 km2, or about the same flat area as Turkey, although such a reasonable figure cannot be found and Japan is classed as a “small” country.
Mountainous Japan’s land area if X 2 for topography is about same as Turkey; micro-relief details at m2 or cm2 scale may doubled it again to the size of Mongolia.
[Japan is yet claimed to lack natural energy resources too, completely ignoring the massive and largely untapped potential of its geothermal reserves underlying 200 volcanos, half of which are active, with power enough to create impressive mountains like Fuji-san. Japan has more volcanic activity than any other country.]
Overall, reports are that the mean height of land above sea level is 840 m globally.
Wikipedia (2017) gives information on DSM a Digital Surface Model representing the Earth’s surface including all objects on it, in contrast to the 3-D Digital Terrain Model (DTM) that represents “bare ground surface without any objects like plants and buildings.” – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_elevation_model#/media/File:DTM_DSM.svg.
Essence of the present essay is that I cannot find any compiled data for DTM nor DSM…
And whilst the bathymetry of the sea-floor is exquisitely mapped, (as are surfaces of Mars, Venus and the Moon, even down to a seven meter resolution!) extensive enquiries by the author with NASA-USGS Landsat program authorities surprisingly failed to yield this basic information on Earth’s land topological surface area AMSL (above mean sea level). In lieu of this, another possibly meaningful value for true land surface area is from the global mean leaf-area-index (LAI) proxy, i.e., an approximation of undulating land exposed to photosynthesis sunlight (including deserts, grassland and tundra but excluding bodies of water), which is set at 4.5 as calculated by Asner et al. (2003). [However, in reality this should properly be applied on top of the topographical area].
From the conventional estimation of Earth’s total global flat horizontal land surface of 149 million km2 (= 14.9 Gha) x 4.5 correction factor, the land topography amounts to ca. 670 million km2 or 67 Gha which is greater than the global surface area of truly flat seas (ca. 360 million km2 or 36 Gha). Thereby vindicating my estimate of 670 : 360 or ca. 65 : 35 for soil : sea surface area rather than the ca. 30 : 70 ratio often falsely claimed by marine biologists to justify their excessive share of limited funding (as I already noted here:- https://vermecology.wordpress.com/2015/12/09/food-for-thought-earthworms-support-the-globe-on-their-very-narrow-shoulders/).
The challenge now is for astronomers or geographers to provide details of the topographical data for our living planet. For even one country, or just an island please?
Somebody should complain… Oh, I think I just did, as did Aristotle and Galileo Galilei.
Rob Blakemore PhD (email@example.com)