JOURNAL ARTICLE

Floating marine debris surface drift: convergence and accumulation toward the South Pacific subtropical gyre

Elodie Martinez, Keitapu Maamaatuaiahutapu, Vincent Taillandier
Marine Pollution Bulletin 2009, 58 (9): 1347-55
19464033
Whatever its origin is, a floating particle at the sea surface is advected by ocean currents. Surface currents could be derived from in situ observations or combined with satellite data. For a better resolution in time and space, we use satellite-derived sea-surface height and wind stress fields with a 1/3 degrees grid from 1993 to 2001 to determine the surface circulation of the South Pacific Ocean. Surface currents are then used to compute the Lagrangian trajectories of floating debris. Results show an accumulation of the debris in the eastern-centre region of the South Pacific subtropical gyre ([120 degrees W; 80 degrees W]-[20 degrees S; 40 degrees S]), resulting from a three-step process: in the first two years, mostly forced by Ekman drift, the debris drift towards the tropical convergence zone ( approximately 30 degrees S). Then they are advected eastward mostly forced by geostrophic currents. They finally reach the eastern-centre region of the South Pacific subtropical gyre from where they could not escape.

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