Modeling Oceanic Transport of Floating Marine Debris

Understanding the movement of debris allows us to have a better grasp on how it might distribute and accumulate within our ocean and on our shores.This report reviews the scientific literature that exists on the subject and outlines the methods that are available to gain this sort of insight.

The following overview presents some of the numerical modeling techniques that have been applied to simulate the transport of marine debris. The primary approach to modeling the transport of drifting objects, with marine debris being one application, typically has involved the use of particle tracking models (PTMs) to estimate or simulate the movement of ‘particles’ over time. This movement depends on transport (advection) by ocean surface currents, and some PTMs may incorporate additional factors such as movement resulting from the proportion of buoyant objects floating high in the water and exposed to the wind (windage), or a random motion component (turbulent diffusion).