Navigation Links
Wind pushes plastics deeper into oceans, driving trash estimates up
Date:4/25/2012

While working on a research sailboat gliding over glassy seas in the Pacific Ocean, oceanographer Giora Proskurowski noticed something new: The water was littered with confetti-size pieces of plastic debris, until the moment the wind picked up and most of the particles disappeared.

After taking samples of water at a depth of 16 feet (5 meters), Proskurowski, a researcher at the University of Washington, discovered that wind was pushing the lightweight plastic particles below the surface. That meant that decades of research into how much plastic litters the ocean, conducted by skimming only the surface, may in some cases vastly underestimate the true amount of plastic debris in the oceans, Proskurowski said.

Reporting in the journal of Geophysical Research Letters this month, Proskurowski and co-lead author Tobias Kukulka, University of Delaware, said that data collected from just the surface of the water commonly underestimates the total amount of plastic in the water by an average factor of 2.5. In high winds the volume of plastic could be underestimated by a factor of 27.

"That really puts a lot of error into the compilation of the data set," Proskurowski said. The paper also detailed a new model that researchers and environmental groups can use to collect more accurate data in the future.

Plastic waste in the oceans is a concern because of the impact it might have on the environment. For instance, when fish ingest the plastics, it may degrade their liver functions. In addition, the particles make nice homes for bacteria and algae, which are then transported along with the particles into different regions of the ocean where they may be invasive and cause problems.

Proskurowski gathered data on a 2010 North Atlantic expedition where he and his team collected samples at the surface, plus an additional three or four depths down as far as 100 feet.

"Almost every tow we did contained plastic regardless of the depth," he said.

By combining the data with wind measurements, Proskurowski and his co-authors developed a simplified mathematical model that could potentially be used to match historical weather data, collected by satellite, with previous surface sampling to more accurately estimate the amount of plastic in the oceans.

In addition, armed with the new model, organizations and researchers in the future might monitor wind data and combine it with surface collections in order to better estimate how much plastic waste is in our oceans.

"By factoring in the wind, which is fundamentally important to the physical behavior, you're increasing the rigor of the science and doing something that has a major impact on the data," Proskurowski said.

The team plans to publish a "recipe" that simplifies the model so that a wide range of groups investigating ocean plastics, including those that aren't oceanographers, can easily use the model. Following the recipe, which is available now by request, might encourage some consistency among the studies, he said.

"On this topic, what science needs to be geared toward is building confidence that scientists have solid numbers and that policy makers aren't making judgments based on CNN reports," he said. Descriptions of the so-called great Pacific garbage patch in widespread news reports may have led many people to imagine a giant, dense island of garbage while in fact the patch is made up of widely dispersed, millimeter-size pieces of debris, he said.

In the future, Proskurowski hopes to examine additional factors, including the drag of the plastics in water, complex ocean turbulence and wave height, that might improve the accuracy of the model. He also may have the chance to examine the relationship between wind speed and depth of plastic particles. The 2010 expedition had near-uniform wind conditions so the researchers were unable to test that relationship.

"This is a first pass," he said.


'/>"/>

Contact: Nancy Gohring
ngohring@uw.edu
206-543-2580
University of Washington
Source:Eurekalert  

Related biology news :

1. Possible discovery of earliest animal life pushes back fossil record
2. Discovery of possible earliest animal life pushes back fossil record
3. Growing Demand for Rapid Screening and Detection Systems Pushes the European Maritime Security Market, Finds Frost & Sullivan
4. Tecnalia does research into plastics and textiles for the main urban pests
5. Minnesota discovery could make fuel and plastics production more energy efficient and cost effective
6. The sweetness of biodegradable plastics
7. Industry honors plastics recycling and reactive polymer processing expert at NJIT
8. Engineered plants make potential precursor to raw material for plastics
9. Center to study effects of plastics chemicals on childrens health
10. Behind-the-scenes advances underpin new super-strong plastics
11. Toward a new generation of superplastics
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
Related Image:
Wind pushes plastics deeper into oceans, driving trash estimates up
(Date:4/13/2017)... 13, 2017 According to a new market research ... Analytics, Identity Administration, and Authorization), Service, Authentication Type, Deployment Mode, Vertical, and ... is expected to grow from USD 14.30 Billion in 2017 to USD ... 17.3%. ... MarketsandMarkets Logo ...
(Date:4/11/2017)... No two people are believed to ... York University Tandon School of Engineering and Michigan ... partial similarities between prints are common enough that ... and other electronic devices can be more vulnerable ... in the fact that fingerprint-based authentication systems feature ...
(Date:4/5/2017)... , April 5, 2017  The Allen Institute for ... Cell Explorer: a one-of-a-kind portal and dynamic digital window ... imaging data, the first application of deep learning to ... stem cell lines and a growing suite of powerful ... for these and future publicly available resources created and ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:6/23/2017)... , ... June 23, 2017 , ... Ken Hanson, a ... of Physik Instrumente USA, have been selected as this year’s recipients of two top ... two have been invited along with other honorees to accept their awards at a ...
(Date:6/22/2017)... ... June 21, 2017 , ... Building on the success of the inaugural RAADfest ... the very latest developments in radical life extension. RAADfest combines cutting edge science presented ... empowerment of personal development, making it the largest most comprehensive and inclusive super longevity ...
(Date:6/22/2017)... ... June 22, 2017 , ... The first human cell line HeLa, established ... first data on cross-contamination of human cell lines with HeLa cells were published. Until ... cell culture labs and is associated with dramatic consequences for research. , In ...
(Date:6/20/2017)... ... June 20, 2017 , ... HorizonScan is providing food ... the most likely threat to their products at the annual IFT conference in ... annual food expo attracts over 20,000 attendees representing food science professionals from over ...
Breaking Biology Technology: