See how 5 ocean garbage gyres form over 35 years in this visualization (Video)

NASA's Scientific Visualization Studio
© NASA's Scientific Visualization Studio

We've known for some time that thanks to the prevailing global ocean currents, there is more than one massively sized garbage patch out there in our oceans. Now, NASA has released a time-lapse visualization culled from real data showing how scraps of garbage follow the ocean's flows to converge into large islands of trash. Seen below, this sobering visualization presents years of migration data taken from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) scientific buoys launched over a period of 35 years.

As NASA explains over at Scientific Visualization Studio:

We start with data from floating, scientific buoys that NOAA has been distributing in the oceans for the last 35-year represented here as white dots. Let’s speed up time to see where the buoys go. [..]

If we let all of the buoys go at the same time, we can observe buoy migration patterns. The number of buoys decreases because some buoys don’t last as long as others. The buoys migrate to 5 known gyres also called ocean garbage patches.

According to NASA, these movements also correspond exactly to a computational model of ocean currents dubbed ECCO-2. In this model, released particles -- no matter their timing -- also eventually migrate to the same places, showing that we do have indeed a problem. The feckless idea that garbage, once discarded, is "out of sight, out of mind" is starkly contrasted with these visuals that reveal how our garbage problem persists, no matter how out of sight it is. More info and visualizations over at Scientific Visualization Studio.

Tags: Oceans | Pollution | Waste

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