The State | Dr. James Knapp | December 8, 2017

Contrary to what you’d think from the debate over seismic surveys in the Atlantic Ocean, marine seismic surveys have been conducted for more than 80 years, on every continental margin, and throughout most ocean basins. They are a demonstrably safe and fundamentally critical technique for understanding what lies beneath the Earth’s surface.

While I have been a vocal advocate for new seismic surveys in the Atlantic for nearly a decade, I have practiced geophysics as a profession for most of my career. Our research team conducts basic and applied research using seismic surveys, both onshore and offshore.

Our studies and experiences have solidified my belief that seismic surveys are a safe, sensible and responsible path toward informed decisions about our coastal and offshore environment.

Seismic surveys are not new to the Atlantic. In fact, the mouth of Chesapeake Bay was the very birthplace of marine seismic surveying in the late 1930s. These pioneering studies led to fundamental advances in Earth sciences: the birth of plate tectonics in the 1960s.

Extensive seismic surveys were conducted in the Atlantic offshore from the late 1960s through the late 1980s, and were preceded by extensive environmental-impact studies by the federal government, much as they are today. Since then, seismic surveying technology has evolved dramatically.

While the current focus is on evaluation of energy-resource potential, marine seismic surveys are critical for numerous other applications. Our seismic-based research includes assessment of offshore areas of South Carolina for development of wind energy installations, as well as evaluation of the continental shelf for geologic storage of carbon dioxide — projects funded through the federal government.

Read the full op-ed here.

Dr. Knapp is a professor in USC’s School of the Earth, Ocean and Environment; contact him at

National Ocean Industries Association
1120 G Street, NW • Suite 900
Washington, DC 20005

Phone: 202.347.6900 | Email: