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2016 Report on Modeling Oceanic Transport of Floating Marine Debris
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    Man-made debris in the ocean is now found from the poles to the equator and from shorelines, estuaries, and the sea surface to the ocean floor (STAP, 2011). General oceanic circulation patterns, particularly surface currents, greatly affect the redistribution and accumulation of marine debris in the world’s oceans, as do the mass, buoyancy, and persistence of the material (Moore, Moore, Leecaster & Weisberg, 2001). Because of the relatively sparse amount of directly observable data on marine debris relative to the immensity of the ocean and the need to predict its movement, numerical models are used to simulate the transport of floating marine debris. Computer modeling simulations, based on data from about 12,000 satellitetracked drifters deployed since the early 1990s as part of the Global Drifter Program (GDP, 2011), indicate that debris tends to accumulate in a limited number of subtropical convergence zones associated with persistent, long-term currents in the world’s oceans (Wakata & Sugimori, 1990; Kubota, Takayama & Namimoto, 2005; Maximenko & Niiler 2008). Recent analyses of data on floating debris in the Pacific Ocean (Eriksen et al., 2013; Law et al., 2014), Atlantic Ocean (Law et al., 2010; Morét-Ferguson et al., 2010), and the world’s oceans combined (Eriksen et al., 2014) have confirmed these modeling results. Modeling simulations can help to understand not only the likely fate of debris from known point sources, population centers, or extreme events such as hurricanes and tsunamis, but also to identify potential sources of debris. This paper reviews and briefly describes some of these methods, gives examples of their application for modeling the movement and transport of marine debris, and attempts to identify gaps in knowledge and recommend potential areas of further research.
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