New study helps explain how garbage patches form in world's oceans
A new study on how ocean currents transport floating marine debris is helping to explain how garbage patches form in the world's oceans. Researchers from the University of Miami (UM) Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and colleagues developed a mathematical model that simulates the motion of small spherical objects floating at the ocean surface.
|Density of finite-size objects after 1.5 years of evolution starting from a uniform distribution under the combined |
action of simulated ocean currents and reanalyzed winds [Credit: Beron-Vera, Olascoaga and Lumpkin]
"We found that undrogued drifters accumulate in the centers of the gyres precisely where plastic debris accumulate to form the great garbage patches," said Francisco Beron-Vera, a research associate professor in the UM Rosenstiel School's Department of Atmospheric Sciences and lead author of the study. "While anchored drifters, which are designed to closely follow water motion, take a much longer time to accumulate in the center of the gyres."
"We show that the size and weight of the drifters must be taken into account to fully explain the accumulation," said Maria Josefina Olascoaga, an associate professor in the UM Rosenstiel School's Department of Ocean Sciences and a co-author of the study.
The model could be used to track shipwrecks, airplane debris, sea ice and pollution among the many practical applications according to the researchers.
The study was published in Geophysical Research Letters.
Source: University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science [February 12, 2017]