Great oceanic garbage patches

Your dog went to a nice farm in the countryside, your rubber duck went to…

A few years ago the ‘Great Pacific Garbage Patch‘ or ‘Plastic Vortex’ made the news. The phenomenon behind this is actually not only restricted to the Pacific Ocean but found in all oceans worldwide in areas where converging surface currents support the creation of such ‘patches’ of accumulated plastics. Over 15,000 drifters were used to track surface currents and develop model predictions to locate these regions worldwide. The model already proved consistent with the observations in the Pacific Ocean. Meanwhile, 22 years of undergraduate students collecting mostly mm-sized floating plastic debris from 6,100 locations in the western North Atlantic provided the data to confirm the predictions for the Atlantic Ocean as well. Here is a map to your rubber duck:

1730a
Map of accumulations of drifters in the world oceans after 10 years. Highest accumulations in red.

Courtesy of Nikolai Maximenko, IPRC, University of Hawai’i

For further reading please see:

UH Scientist Predicts Plastic Garbage Patch in Atlantic Ocean, IPRC Newsletter, 19 August 2010

Pathways of marine debris derived from trajectories of Lagrangian drifters

On North Pacific circulation and associated marine debris concentration

Plastic pollution in the South Pacific subtropical gyre

Posted by Alexandra Oppelt, PhD student, Biogeochemistry Research Group, TCD

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