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Mar Pollut Bull. 2012;65(1-3):51-62. doi: 10.1016/j.marpolbul.2011.04.016. Epub 2011 Jun 22.

Pathways of marine debris derived from trajectories of Lagrangian drifters.

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International Pacific Research Center, School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology, University of Hawaii, Honolulu, HI, USA.


Global set of trajectories of satellite-tracked Lagrangian drifters is used to study the dynamics of marine debris. A probabilistic model is developed to eliminate the bias in spatial distribution of drifter data due to heterogeneous deployments. Model experiments, simulating long-term evolution of initially homogeneous drifter array, reveal five main sites of drifter aggregation, located in the subtropics and maintained by converging Ekman currents. The paper characterizes the geography and structure of the collection regions and discusses factors that determine their dynamics. A new scale R(c)=(4k/|D|)(½) is introduced to characterize tracer distribution under competing effects of horizontal divergence D and diffusion k. Existence and locations of all five accumulation zones have been recently confirmed by direct measurements of microplastic at the sea surface.

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